Policing Authority doubts Garda’s ability to reform

Lack of strategic workforce plan affecting specialist investigative units, report says

The Policing Authority has expressed significant doubts about the Garda's ability to reform, saying many of the drivers of positive change have operated below par or remained unaddressed this year.

In a report assessing the Garda’s performance in the first half of the year, the authority commended the “renewed vigour” in frontline policing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, it said serious strategic shortcomings meant specialist investigative units were being hampered in their efforts to respond to emerging crime trends, including cyber crime and economic crime.

The authority said it was still waiting on a “strategic workforce plan”, which would pinpoint where skills were needed and when those needs would arise.


It said such a plan had been awaited since 2019 and its absence had created a “strategic vacuum” in the force.

Personnel and skills shortages persisted in the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau and the lack of a strategic workforce plan meant the long-standing problems were not being resolved.

“This has significant impacts on the organisation’s ability to respond effectively to economic crime and corruption – and to respond to cyber crime and cyber-enabled crime,” the authority said, adding that the units were dealing with serious and rapidly increasing types of crime.

"Practically, this impacts significantly on the ability of An Garda Síochána to efficiently and expediently investigate these and other crime types, for example, delays and backlogs existing in the examination of seized mobile and computer devices."


Due to a “lack of capacity”, training was also lagging behind in key areas such as driving skills, specialist interviewing and assessing domestic abuse risk.

Overall, there was “a lack of strategic direction, leadership and prioritisation concerning training”, with “no finalised, overarching training strategy”. There was also “a long-standing vacancy” in the post of learning and development director.

"Areas such as community engagement, victim support and protecting the vulnerable saw extremely high levels of performance during 2020. This has continued in 2021," said authority chief executive Helen Hall of its latest assessment of policing performance.

However, there were also “weaknesses” in many areas including “performance management, supervision, strategic HR management, financial management and planning, and the provision of training”.

“These key enablers are the foundation of good performance and, at present, they are undermining the ability of An Garda Síochána to provide an efficient, and effective policing service.”


Under the Garda’s annual policing plan, two-thirds of the force’s objectives were “on course” in the first six months of the year, which the authority said was “a considerable improvement compared to previous years”.

In response to the authority’s report, An Garda Síochána said it recognised the critical role played by a strategic workforce plan for the organisation and that work on one was in progress.

“However, recognising the limited nature of HR technology systems available and the consequent reliance on paper records, this work will take a considerable amount of time,” it said, adding that it hoped the plan would be completed “at the earliest opportunity”.

The force said the pandemic has had a significant impact on the provision of training in the Garda and in teaching institutions across the State.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times