Independent TD Mattie McGrath has said that the recent intake of 100 new Garda recruits to the Garda College in Templemore is akin to trying to plug a hole in a dam with your finger. Deputy McGrath was speaking as the recruits, the first since 2009, begin their initial training period in a Garda force that has been convulsed by controversy and threats to its operational ability:
“Given the numbers of applicants, some 20,000 for the available positions, we know for certain that the Minister for Justice and the Garda Commissioner has huge public reserves of individuals who are willing and able to commit themselves to An Garda Siochana.
Yet while the 100 men and woman who were successful are to be applauded, that number is pathetic in terms of what is truly needed for the maintenance of a strong and effective policing force.
We know that the red line level of 13,000 Gardaí which is the bare minimum needed is under threat. We also know that the introduction of an incentivised three-year break from active duty which was part of the terms of the Haddington Road agreement – and which must commence by February has been described as “potentially catastrophic” by senior Gardaí.
The Garda Representative Association central executive are telling us that there are hundreds fewer Gardaí patrolling our major urban areas and that the deployment of 100 new Gardaí to some of our cities would only bring the numbers up to 2008 levels-levels which have now been exceeded in terms of increased need.
This is to saying nothing of the damage done to rural communities by the closure of Garda stations under the former Minister Alan Shatter.
100 new recruits is a drop in the ocean compared to what we need and yet the Minister apparently wants to continue down this road of a drip drip policy in terms of recruitment numbers. It must be clearly seen that given all we have heard from senior Gardaí and Gardaí on the ground, that the tide is turning in favour of the criminal and the subversive, and this is directly related to the stretched and meagre resources available to the Gardaí to carry out operational tasks to maximum effect,” concluded Deputy McGrath.