Being a garda is ‘great job’ for ‘quality’ candidates, says Garda Commissioner

Changes over time mean a career in the force no longer what ‘it once was’

Numbers in the force declined for some two years. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Being a garda is a “great job” for “high quality candidates” and policing in Ireland is “an honourable career”, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said.

Speaking as the force announced a recruitment campaign aiming to hire 1,000 recruits annually, Mr Harris said An Garda Síochána wants emigrants to return home and join the force. It is also keen to attract applicants from minority communities because the organisation must reflect the diverse communities it serves.

“Being a garda is not for everybody. It requires working late nights and early mornings, having to get into physical confrontations, being active,” he said, adding that he wanted to make clear the challenges so the right candidates would apply.

He was, however, “confident” the recruitment campaign – backed by a €550,000 “It’s A Job Worth Doing” advertisement campaign – would attract candidates with “the skills and attitude to make excellent gardaí”.

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Earlier, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) said it believed the recruitment campaign would prove challenging because being a garda was “not the job it once was”.

AGSI general secretary Antoinette Cunningham said policing was now overly bureaucratic with gardaí “in front of a PC a lot of the time”.

“Assaults are on the increase. Every interaction, practically, the members are involved in is videoed. Quite a lot of them are uploaded to social media in a distorted way,” she said.

Ms Cunningham added there was also currently a dispute within the force over efforts by senior Garda management to introduce new rosters which gardaí were opposed to.

Speaking in advance of the recruitment campaign, which is run by the Public Appointments Service and opens on Friday, Minister for Justice Simon Harris said policing was “not a career for the faint of heart” but rather, for those “with strong initiative and perseverance, tolerance, composure, a strong moral compass”.

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Garda recruitment stalled during the pandemic period when the Garda College was forced to close. Numbers in the force declined for some two years, mainly due to age-related retirements. In the face of many different types of crime increasing after the pandemic, the Government has been under pressure to bolster numbers.

At the end of last year, there were 14,113 sworn Garda members, down 650 in less than three years. When career breaks and maternity leave were factored in, the “available strength” of the Garda at the end of November was 13,907.

The Department of Justice said there were currently more than 200 recruits in the Garda College. Four further intakes, of 225 each, are planned this year. Some of those would come from a recruitment process run last year while others would be drawn from the latest campaign.

The first applicants from that new process were expected to be interviewed in July and successful candidates would begin entering the Garda College in the planned intakes for later this year.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times