Fast-growing parts of country have proportionally fewest gardaí
Northwest divisions have twice as many gardaí per head as parts of greater Dublin
Comparing Garda divisions on a per-capita basis was ‘overly simplistic’, spokesman says. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Some of the areas with the highest population growth in Ireland have proportionally the fewest gardaí.
An analysis of Garda manpower across the country’s 28 divisions highlights wide variations in the strength of the force relative to the size of communities they serve.
It reveals that some divisions in the northwest of the country have almost twice as many gardaí per head of population as parts of the Greater Dublin Area, which are experiencing strong growth levels.
The figures show the Garda divisions of Roscommon-Longford and Sligo-Leitrim have proportionally the highest number of gardaí in the Republic outside Dublin’s inner-city areas.
Roscommon-Longford has more than 32 gardaí per 10,000 population, while Sligo-Leitrim has more than 31. The national average is 26.3 gardaí per 10,000 inhabitants.
In contrast, Meath has the lowest ratio of gardaí to population, at just under 17 gardaí per 10,000. Kildare has the second-lowest at about 18.
The scale of the imbalance is highlighted by the fact that while the number of gardaí serving in Meath (324) and Roscommon-Longford (314) is similar, Meath has about 94,000 more inhabitants.
Kildare, which has a population of 20,000 more than Limerick, has 394 gardaí compared with 581 in Limerick.
Census figures show the population of Kildare and Meath each grew by almost 6 per cent between 2011 and 2016 – the highest rates in the country.
Garda figures show the two divisions in Dublin city centre have proportionally the highest staffing levels in the country.
In Dublin North Central, which has the highest overall crime rates in the State, there are more than 83 gardaí per 10,000 population – over three times the national average.
Dublin South Central, which has the highest rates for robberies and burglaries in Ireland, has an average of almost 66 gardaí per 10,000
Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said the figures showed very significant variations in Garda resources around the country that were difficult to explain.
The Kildare North TD expressed concern that parts of Dublin’s commuter belt that had experienced the biggest population growth of anywhere in the country in the past decade were not getting the commensurate number of gardaí assigned to them.
“Essentially the figures indicate that large new population centres don’t get a large range of new services. They are playing catch-up the whole time,” said Ms Murphy.
She claimed the deployment of additional gardaí always appeared reactive and in response to issues such as gangland feuds in Dublin and Limerick and the recent attack on an executive of the Quinn Industrial Holdings group in Cavan.
Ms Murphy said she recognised that it would be politically very difficult to try to reassign gardaí between divisions to provide a fairer allocation of staff across the country but that the issue should be addressed through the ongoing recruitment campaign to increase the size of the force to 15,000 by 2021.
The figure stood at 14,202 at the end of September.
“It’s the difference between having something taken away and not providing it in the first place. I’m not expressing concern about this because I’m a TD from Kildare. I’m concerned about any situation where I feel communities are not being treated fairly,” said Ms Murphy.
The TD said she would challenge the methodology used by gardaí in the allocation of Garda manpower levels around the country as it had failed to redress imbalances that had now existed for many years.
“Policing plans are the same year in and year out. Commitments given to allocate a disproportionate number of new gardaí to areas that are under-resourced haven’t come true because other issues like what happened in Cavan and Dublin have intervened,” Ms Murphy said.
A Garda spokesman said the number of gardaí assigned to a division was not determined by population alone and was an issue that was under continual review.
Comparing Garda divisions on a per-capita basis was “overly simplistic and fails to take into account crucial factors such as crime trends and demographics”, he said.
“Local Garda management closely monitors the allocation of all resources in the context of crime trends, policing needs and other operational strategies in place on a district, divisional and regional level to ensure optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public,” he added.