Huge concern at number of gardaí who have taken their own lives
Published 02/01/2016 | 02:30
Garda representatives have expressed serious concern at the alarming rise in the number of officers taking their own lives.
Six members of the force - one sergeant and five gardaí - have died in tragic circumstances over the past year.
Gardaí blame the rise on a lack of adequate counselling supports for personnel, combined with increased work pressure as a result of cutbacks.
The unions representing the victims say they have been demanding the establishment of a 24/7 emergency counselling service for more than four years.
Gardaí do not receive specialist counselling services, which are routinely available to other emergency services.
The revelations emerged after a shocking poll by the AGSI found that almost 90pc of middle-ranking gardai felt morale was either low or very low in the force.
Last night, representatives of the two main Garda representative bodies spoke of their concern at the upsurge in gardaí taking their own lives.
"We have a very basic welfare system and we have been calling for the establishment of a 24/7 service, which should be automatically available to all gardaí who are suffering from stress," said Dermot O'Brien, president of the Garda Representative Association (GRA).
"How many more of our members are going to be put under pressure like this before a service is in place, because this is a crisis.
"If six members of the gardaí were killed in the line of duty there would be a public emergency, yet we are losing colleagues quietly to another killer," he added.
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) has also expressed concern at the increase in suicide among colleagues.
"We have been calling for this service for over four years because we are concerned at the effects of the increased pressure on our colleagues," said John Jacobs, deputy general secretary of the AGSI.
Last April, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan told AGSI conference delegates a 24/7 welfare service would be launched in September.
"It is now January and we still have no service in place or a new launch date set," the AGSI officer said. "It is disappointing and very concerning that we are still waiting for the establishment of this vital service for our members."
The revelations emerged after a shocking poll by the AGSI found almost 90pc of middle-ranking gardai felt morale was either low or very low in the force.
The issue of Garda suicides has been raised by both representative bodies at meetings with the Commissioner.
It is understood a tender process is being prepared for an emergency service, but gardaí say this will delay the setting up of the service by another six months.
The only one of the six tragic deaths to receive widespread publicity was that of Sgt Michael Galvin, who died from a gunshot wound from an official issue handgun in Ballyshannon Garda Station, Co Donegal, on May 28.
He was in turmoil after being subjected to an investigation by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission - and did not know he had already been cleared of any wrongdoing.