Garda managers ‘fear bullying allegations’ if they try to tackle poor performance

Policing Authority says view in Garda of recruitment challenges is not one of ‘crisis’, with some of those resigning regarded as ‘unsuitable’ for policing

Garda supervisors, or managers, feel “constrained” when they are trying to correct poor performance among some of the gardaí working under them, fearing they cannot take a more robust or direct approach with them.

“If someone turns up on time, leaves on time and does even the bare minimum in between they feel there is little that can be done to address behavioural or performance issues,” the Policing Authority surmised of the view within An Garda Síochána.

There was also “a fear on some supervisor’s part to tackle poor performance in case it resulted in accusations of bullying or a grievance being lodged against them”.

The new Policing Authority report includes feedback it received from sworn Garda members and Garda civilian staff last year. It has also pointed to the widespread belief that new Garda recruits emerging from the Garda College, Templemore, Co Tipperary, are not equipped for frontline policing.


There was a “consistent view” among Garda members that the “training programme currently being used for trainees in Templemore is not fit for purpose and that the probationers coming out after the initial 11-week training round are insufficiently prepared for frontline service”.

This was, in the view of many Garda members, compounded by the inadequate continuous professional development being offered to Garda members. Much of this was now online and was often completed when gardaí were “distracted” by their core duties or late at night.

However, while concerns were also expressed around morale in the Garda, and issues with recruiting and retaining both gardaí and civilian staff, the often repeated claim that these difficulties amounted to a “crisis” in the Garda was not borne out.

Most gardaí believed the recruitment and retention of Garda civilian workers, rather than sworn members, was “the most pressing issue”. When civilian staff left the Garda, “this has consistently resulted” in gardaí having to be reassigned to duties previously civilianised under efforts to modernise the force.

The knock-on result was that gardaí were being removed from a role that needed to be filled by a garda member with sworn policing powers, thus depleting frontline or investigative policing.

The new Policing Authority report – What We Heard 2023 – says many civilian workers were leaving the Garda because of the “uncertainty” about what will happen to their “terms of conditions” when the Policing, Security and Community Safety Act 2024 becomes operational.

That legislation, which is designed to streamline Garda oversight, will result in Garda civilian staff coming under much more stringent disciplinary structures than exist elsewhere in the Civil Service. As a result, the Policing Authority said “significant numbers of staff”, often senior workers with much needed experience, were now availing of their right to move to other parts of the Civil Service, under the Civil Service Mobility Scheme.

However, overall Garda members viewed resignations from the force in a much more nuanced way, rather than a large number seeing it as a crisis. Some people leaving were seen as “good people, good guards” who had been offered better opportunities elsewhere, including in the area of remuneration and work-life balance.

In other cases, many of the members who were resigning were seen by colleagues as “not suitable” for the Garda organisation and it was better for them or the organisation, sometimes both, that they opted out of a career in policing.

Overall, the “general view was not one of concern that the An Garda Síochána is facing a retention ‘crisis’ or an ‘exodus’ of good people”, the authority said. In general, it was acknowledged by Garda members that younger people were less attracted “to the concept of a job for life”, now had more career options than ever and this was a challenge “faced by many industries”.

However, the authority said some Garda members said the use of sick leave, in place of annual leave, was widespread. This arose in cases when personnel shortages did not allow for annual leave requests to be granted. The practice of Garda members going on sick leave immediately after their transfer requests were refused is also noted in the Policing Authority report.

There was “change fatigue” in the Garda due to the constant rate of change in the force over the last decade as it sought to modernise. The Policing Authority noted some members of the Garda were negative about changes in the area of IT, specifically relating to the new Investigation Management System (IMS).

However, when personnel with considerable experience of that system – which is used to manage and oversee progress in Garda investigations – were interviewed, they were much more positive. They said “they wouldn’t be without it” because it aided their work.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris told a meeting of the Policing Authority in Dublin on Thursday that some 900 civilian staff, or 27 per cent of the Garda’s civilian workforce, had applied to leave the Garda for another part of the civil service.

He said under the new legislation, those workers would changed from being civil servants to public servants. Responding to questions from the new chair of the authority, Elaine Byrne, there was “uncertainty” among that group – some of whom were very experienced with specialist ICR skills – around how their conditions would change.

Yvonne Cooke, the Garda’s executive director of human resources and people development, told the authority meeting many Garda civilian workers were concerned they would not longer have “mobility” across the civil service once the new legislation was operational. As a result, they wanted to “get on a list” to move before the changes occur.

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Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times