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McEntee 'happy to go beyond' Government target of 15,000 gardaí

Irish Examiner logo Irish Examiner 28/09/2022 Cormac O’Keeffe
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Justice Minister Helen McEntee said she was “happy to go beyond” the long-standing Government target of 15,000 gardaí — but said her first priority was to reach that figure.

She said she was conscious the Garda strength had been hovering around 14,300 for the last year, but said she was confident the announcement under Budget 2023 for 1,000 garda recruits next year would bring the strength to 15,000.

Her comments follow concerns expressed by frontline Garda staff associations at the prospect of 1,000 recruits next year given the target of 800 recruits for 2022 is way off — with about 100 being recruited this year.

Speaking at the annual conference of the Association of Garda Superintendents in Naas, Co Kildare, Ms McEntee said she “shared the frustration” of Garda staff associations and Garda HQ in the slower than hoped for pace of recruitment, but said this was largely down to the impact of Covid.

“I think we are now turning a corner,” she said. “We are now getting to a situation where we can get back to full capacity and, while last year was a challenge, the issue is not funding, it’s not commitment — it’s making sure we have that steady flow of recruits to go into Templemore.” 

Figures show 370 student gardaí have attested in 2022, with all of these having been recruited in 2021. Some 20 are currently in the system and are due to attest after Christmas.

Between 75 and 100 recruits are expected to enter the college next month.

Although 11,000 applications were received under last year’s recruitment campaign, the authorities have struggled to process significant recruitment numbers this year.

Recruitment campaign

Ms McEntee said there would be another recruitment campaign next year, to ensure the recruitment of 1,000 — with batches of 200 every three months.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors said it was concerned these numbers were “aspirational rather than achievable”.

Even if the Government succeeds in reaching 15,000, both the Policing Authority and the Garda Commissioner last month urged the Government to “revisit” this number in the context of a rising population and greater policing demands.

Commenting, Ms McEntee said: "Absolutely, I’m happy to go beyond [15,000], as the population increases, as requirements on An Garda Síochána increases, as [we become] more diverse, as we develop and establish more specialist units, it’s important people populate those teams with the expertise while making sure we have those frontline gardaí on the ground on the beat.

“If we get to 15,000 — that’s obviously our first target. Beyond that, yes, I would be keen to see us going even further.” 

At the conference, Superintendent Declan McCarthy said he and his colleagues "very much welcome" the funding for an extra 1,000 garda recruits.

“This issue that we have is that all of the specialist units, which are required for a modern police force — such as Divisions Protective Services Units, Armed Support Units and Cyber Crime Units — they are all being extracted from frontline operational policing,” he said.

“This is the policing that the public sees, men and women out in patrol cars and out on the beat, and that is impacting majorly. By taking those members out [from frontline policing for deployment to specialist units], they have to be replaced. 

"And with Covid and the recruitment process at the moment, we're in stagnation and we need to reach a number of 15,000. That number needs to be stabilised and then we can go forward and look at planning properly for the future.”

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