Garda faces nervy weekend as overtime cut ahead of party season

Force hopes for no serious trouble as Christmas season begins in earnest

“A simple thing like keeping a crime scene secure overnight or for a period of hours mops up at least one garda.” Photograph: Frank Miller

“A simple thing like keeping a crime scene secure overnight or for a period of hours mops up at least one garda.” Photograph: Frank Miller

 

Senior Garda officers running the force are facing a nervous period to Sunday as the front line of policing is stretched at exactly the wrong time.

The Christmas party season will get under way in earnest tomorrow, bringing additional revellers out in cities and towns across the State.

And with the night-time economy already having long been in recovery, gardaí are already grappling with an increase in drunkenness and public-order crimes.

However, restrictions on overtime mean there is no money to bring in additional resources. So the men and women who make up the Garda front line, and the senior officers who manage them, will be nervous.

Facing a big weekend, they must cope within the resources allowed by the regular Garda roster because the money for overtime has run out.

Directives sent by the chief superintendents in Dublin to those below them on Tuesday made it clear the well had run dry. The order ending overtime sent by Chief Supt Frank Clerkin to officers in the Dublin South Central division, for example, stated that he “fully appreciates the difficulties associated”.

He suggested the superintendents prioritised answering telephones and manning public counters at Garda stations.

Prisoners were to be managed at only one station per district and there was to be only one patrol car covering each district. Permission was also given for the “decommissioning” of burglary response units.

Unpredictable problems

News that most overtime was cancelled was greeted with surprise in the Garda. “[Policing] is unpredictable and even over a few days you might have something coming out of left field that you need to bring extra resources in for,” said one superintendent.

“That’s fine if nothing dramatic happens. But even crimes that wouldn’t end up in the newspapers can mop up a lot of overtime hours ... A simple thing like keeping a crime scene secure overnight or for a period of hours mops up at least one [garda] and maybe more.”

Another suggested “if anything outside planned patrols” on foot or in Garda cars occurred, that attention would come “at the expense of” basic policing.

However, several sources believed the Garda could cope without overtime for a matter of days. They pointed out that a full complement of staff was rostered on and that overtime would only impact resources needed to augment the regular levels of staffing.

One source said a strike by rank-and-file gardaí, sergeants and inspectors was averted last year and that, by comparison, “having no overtime for a few days is pretty minor”.

“Unless something huge happens or town goes absolutely crazy for the start of Christmas; the general public shouldn’t even notice it.”