Funding for a new surveillance aircraft as well as additional overtime, new ballistics vests and long-mooted body-worn cameras are among the measures announced in the budget to aid the Garda’s fight against crime.
An additional 1,000 new recruits will be taken into the Garda College, Templemore, Co Tipperary, next year, some 200 higher than this year. Those additional recruits are required as part of the recruitment drive under way for several years to increase the number of sworn members in the Garda to 15,000.
Last month, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said he believed that a level of 15,000 would not be large enough into the future to maintain the policing service expected in the Republic. However, the additional recruitment planned for next year will only help recover ground lost when the Garda college was closed during the pandemic, rather than representing any new increase to the size of the force.
Some €7 million has been provided for a new Garda fixed-wing aircraft, which will replace the Pilatus Britten-Norman aircraft which is now 25 years-old. The Irish Times understands the funding provided in the budget will allow a replacement aircraft to be purchased next year and it would likely be 2024 until it is in the skies.
In total, the justice vote in the budget — to fund the Garda, Irish Prison Service, International Protection Office, Irish Court Service, Forensic Science Ireland and a range of other areas — has increased by 5 per cent to €3.3 billion. Of that, the Garda force accounts for €2.14 billion, which includes Garda salaries and pensions.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said the funding allocation for next year was a “clear commitment to building stronger, safer communities”. The resources being made available to the Garda would “strengthen” the force and support victims of crime, including domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. As well as the 1,000 new gardaí being recruited in 2023, some 430 Garda staff, or civilian workers, would also be hired to free up sworn officers from desk-bound posts in favour of frontline duties.
“More gardaí, plus additional Garda staff, will help people feel safer and will reduce crime,” Ms McEntee. “We are also providing more money for Garda overtime — and this means gardaí will be deployed as needed to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour in our communities.”
There will be an additional €5 million available for Garda overtime, bringing that budget more than €100 million next year. Some €6 million is being made available for new ballistics vests and €3 million is earmarked for the purchase of body-worn cameras for gardaí.
There will also be an additional €11 million for new Garda mobile devices and apps, much of which is aimed at connecting gardaí on the frontline. Some €21 million will be spent on ICT projects next year and €10 million is being invested in 270 new Garda vehicles.
In the area of prisons, some €6.5 million is being made available to recruit an estimated 100 new prison officers, as part of a €411 million total budget for the Irish Prison Service. Some €9.2 million is allocated to support the response to the Ukrainian crisis, while the International Protection Office is to receive €17.7 million as part of a package to accelerate the much large number of applications, by people from all over the world, for international protection in the Republic.