Slow pace of moving gardaí out of desk jobs a concern, says Policing Authority

Garda Commissioner not able to say how many posts can be ‘civilianised’

 Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan and  Joe Nugent, chief administrative officer of An Garda Síochána, at  Griffith College, Dublin, on Thursday. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan and Joe Nugent, chief administrative officer of An Garda Síochána, at Griffith College, Dublin, on Thursday. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

 

The continued slow pace of moving civilians into desk jobs so gardaí could be freed up for frontline policing was of serious concern and the Garda Síochána was to blame for the long delay, Policing Authority chairwoman Josephine Feehily has said.

In a firm exchange at the end of its two-hour public hearing yesterday, Ms Feehily disagreed with Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan when she suggested that the Garda Inspectorate was yet to identify the 1,500 Garda posts it believed could be “civilianised”. The inspectorate has long said that 1,500 jobs currently being done by gardaí could be civilianised, thus freeing up a large number of personnel for frontline policing.

However, Ms O’Sullivan and the Garda’s chief administrative officer, Joe Nugent, on Thursday conceded that they were not in a position to say how many of the posts they believed could be civilianised. Ms O’Sullivan said the Garda did not have the expertise yet to produce the information being sought.

“We are on record publicly as saying that we have absolutely no desire to keep sworn police officers in positions that can be filled by suitably qualified civilian staff,” she said.

Ms Feehily said the authority’s concern was around the slow “progress and pace” of civilianisation of posts to free gardaí from desk jobs for front line policing.

“You know, the 1,500 number is out there now quite a long time,” she said. “And it remains the valid number until you give us another one – we do need to see progress on that.”

She added that some posts – including in IT, where serious shortcomings in the Garda’s capability have been flagged – were approved many months ago but were only being filled now.

Ms O’Sullivan said: “We actually share the frustration of the authority members in terms of the pace. And, as I said, we are engaging with the Garda Inspectorate, we are engaging collaboratively . . .”

Ms Feehily then interrupted: “Well, it’s strange, Commissioner – we’ve engaged with them and they’ve told us where their view [of the 1,500 posts that could be civilianised] is. So we have their input. It’s your input that’s missing.”

When asked by authority member Maureen Lynott would the Garda be able to meet a Government deadline of the end of next month for indicating how many posts could be civilianised, Mr Nugent said: “I’m not saying we’re not able to.”

Ms Lynott replied: “Oh, you’re a master, you know that?”

There are currently 2,000 civilian workers in the Garda, and the goal is to double that number within five years and bring in specialist skills in the process.