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Garda Reserve - General Secretary’s Open Letter to T.D.’s

A Theachta,
     The Garda Representative Association believe an Garda Siochána should be adequately resourced and equipped similar to other police forces in which a reservist force operate before it is introduced in Ireland.
They also believe the Garda civilianisation programme should be reactivated to free up officers from deskbound duties. Both associations have repeatedly called on the Minister for Justice over
the last number of years to address the needs of Gardai on the ground in respect of provision of anti-stab vests, a secure functioning radio system, proper police cars and modern accommodation. While there has admittedly been an increase in the Garda Vote, this has unfortunately being eaten into by overtime due to the lack of Gardai forcing existing members to  meet the demands of an increasing population. While some new Garda stations have been opened, a good many remain empty due the retirement of officers from rural areas and the centralisation of Garda personnel in large towns and cities. The Strategic Management Initiative within an Garda Siochána actually focussed on this centralisation policy and is at odds  with the policing requirements of the decentralisation programme instigated by this government.

There is a huge depth of feeling attached to this particular proposal not just by Gardai themselves but also their families who have contacted us on the issue. They point out to us the sacrifices they made to put their son or daughter through Garda College only to be told someone else can have
effectively the same role but with substantially less training. Many relatives in the Autumn 2005 graduation also took issue with the Minister for Justice's choosing to announce the implementation of the reserve on the occasion of their graduation. They feel it they have been treated shoddily in respect of the 30 years has undertaken to commit to An Garda Siochána and in the service of the state.


Our concerns centre on  a number of  issues:
1.The staff associations are making what we believe is a reasonable request in asking the government to optimise the force in terms of equipment, accommodation and numbers ahead of the implementation of such a fundamental change to Irish policing which will see 40% of the uniformed force on the streets with only 56 hours training and yet full Garda powers. We also see this proposal as a massive deception being perpetrated on the Irish people ahead of the election next year to create the illusion this government is doing something on crime. This kind of poor policy making is already evident in other areas of the public service where we have patients on trolleys instead of hospital beds, children in prefabs instead of classrooms and now mock Gardaí instead of the real police officers. Our own opinion poll
conducted independently showed 80% of respondents wanted the Gardaí properly resourced ahead of the introducing the Reserve. Indeed the Dept of Justice's own poll showed 81% of respondents in favour of increased participation by civilians in the Garda over reservists.

2.Other jurisdictions in which these operate have fully optimised police services in respect of anti-stab vests, secure radio systems, police accommodation, training etc. Even the reservists in these police forces have a better standard of equipment and training than the current Garda force has and yet it is being touted as a solution to Ireland's policing problems. The solution to Ireland's policing requirements lies in this government making a concerted effort to implement an index-linked capital investment programme in the force. Eighty per cent of the current funding made available by this government is being swallowed up by overtime due the lack of sufficient Garda numbers to do the requisite amount of work for a growing population.
 

3.Specialist policing is drawing away uniformed members into problem areas modern Ireland has to contend with. Yet these uniformed vacancies are not being replaced. If an Asst Commissioner, Chief Supt, Supt etc., vacancy arises it is filled immediately yet these uniformed vacancies are not due to a lack of appropriate recruiting. And these are the vacancies that matter as these are what the public see or increasingly don't see on the streets.

4.If international experience is to be heeded then the government should look at a cost benefit analysis ahead on the introduction of the reservists to protect the taxpayer from a potentially massive wages and pensions claim in the future from these 4000 individuals. We believe that this will be the case if international trends are anything to go by (Canada and Scotland).
Our argument is why waste this funding on a political gimmick when it could be put to better use at the coalface of Irish policing right now.

5.Last April the Taoiseach launched a Task Force on Active Citizenship which was to deliver a report within six months on the voluntary sector in Ireland due to a drop off in volunteering as result of increased life pressures on people's time due to commuting long distances, busy work schedules etc. I am aware the task force has yet to report and may have only begin its work recently. If the Taoiseach saw fit to establish a task force on the matter of volunteering in Ireland where does his government expect to get the volunteers for the proposed reservists?


What we need is a fulltime force at full strength. This means an optimum number survey to ascertain exactly how many Gardaí are needed on a district by district basis and then commitment from senior management and government to implement these staffing levels. What we need here is leadership. Real, strong leadership from our politicians, both in government and opposition, and senior Garda management who can stand up and call a halt to the endless politicking on issues that is turning our young people away from figures of authority and into the arms of less safe practices like drugs, anti-social behaviour and mindless rioting like we witnessed on the streets of Dublin only a few  weeks ago.

These are the pressing issues for Gardaí and the Irish people. They deserve better and we strive to provide them with the service they deserve. We do our level best but with proper resourcing and commitment we could do so much better.
Let's do this now. Let's change this now. Let's make an Garda Siochána right and working, equipped and strong, like all other international forces we are told have reserves. Great for them, that could be us too but let's get the force right first before we start bolting parts onto it.

Regards,

PJ Stone
General Secretary
Garda Representative Association

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