Varadkar: No hard Brexit policing plans put in place
PSNI says it will need 400 additional officers if UK fails to agree EU exit deal
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar reviews a trainee guard of honour on his first visit to Templemore Garda Training College, Co Tipperary. Photograph: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie
A hard Brexit may increase the risk of cross-border crime, such as smuggling, but no policing contingency plans were being put in place for that scenario, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.
Instead, all efforts were being focused on ensure a deal between the UK and the EU.
Mr Varadkar made his comments at a passing out ceremony for 199 new gardaí at the Garda College, Templemore, Co Tipperary.
PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton has already said he would need 400 additional officers in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
However, both the Taoiseach and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said the Garda force was already increasing in size. No contingency planning was taking place for additional gardaí along the border.
And they also both believe it was prudent to press ahead with plans to reduce Garda overtime by almost one third to €100 million next year, saying the increase in the personnel in the force would negate the need for so much overtime to be worked.
“We are not making any contingency plans for a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland,” Mr Varadkar said.
“But we do have to have regard for the fact that we could see an increase in things like smuggling, for example, and other illegal cross-border activities. So we have to take that into account.
“Obviously our overriding plan and objective is to avoid a no-deal scenario. And that’s why we put so much work into negotiating a withdrawal agreement for Westminster in the next couple of weeks.”
The best way of avoiding a no-deal Brexit was “to have a deal, and we have a deal on the table now”.
“In terms of policing needs; we have about 600 more gardaí than this time last year already. And we’re going to continue to expand the force over the next couple of years.
“How gardaí are deployed is, of course, a matter for the Commissioner. But we will take into account any changes that may arise because of Brexit and also we need to make sure we have very close cooperation with the PSNI.”
Force of 14,000
Mr Varadkar added that with both the number of sworn Garda members and civilians increasing, to create a force of 14,000 at present, the plan remained to reduce Garda overtime.
“A lot of the time, as is the case in other parts of the public service, overtime is being used to compensate for the fact that we don’t have enough everyday staff,” he said.
“So as you increase the number of staff, you’d anticipate overtime would fall. But there will always be the need for a certain amount of overtime.”
Mr Flanagan said overtime “is a challenge” but he was very pleased to secure “just under €100 million” for Garda overtime in 2019.
However, about 200 gardaí were among the latest class now passing out at the Garda College. And the Garda as an organisation was significantly increasing in size.
“It will be 14,000 by the end of the year so there should be a reduction in the demand for overtime. And the Commissioner will continue to monitor that.”