For the first time in five years, there is investment in gardaí
Published 02/11/2015 | 02:30
The Garda force is currently undergoing the biggest transformation in its history.
The overhaul will affect every sector of the organisation, including the specialist units at the forefront of the fight against crime. The authorities plan to turn the Garda into a modern force that can avail of the latest tools that are required to successfully take on today's criminals, ranging from small-time crooks to terrorists.
All of that requires financial investment - and for the first time in more than five years the Government finds itself in a position where badly needed funds can be spent.
Against the odds, the gardaí have a proud record of producing results from their criminal investigations while maintaining the trust of communities.
But change is long overdue and simple technological advances that will allow officers to track a target from a crime to prosecution in the courts finally look to be on the way.
Investment in IT and an upgraded fleet of vehicles will play their part in the new anti-crime initiative being announced.
But there is also an acceptance among senior officers that close contact between the force and the public must be preserved.
There has been a lot of criticism of the fall-out from the closure of 139 garda barracks and the withdrawal of gardaí to the bigger towns.
The main problem created by the closures was the failure to follow up on a promise to the communities to ensure links with the force would not be affected.
This was largely due to the cutbacks in the strength of the force, allowing it to drop from 14,500 to 12,000, as recruitment was put on hold.
It was a short-sighted financial reaction, whose effects are being felt today in every county. The resumption of recruitment will hopefully go a long way towards eradicating those effects.
But in the meantime, measures have to be taken to fill the gap in numbers.
Additional money should also be accessible to senior officers in each division to spend on sending out regular patrols to every corner of their bailiwicks.
And the Government should promise that the mistakes of the recruitment ban are never repeated. Otherwise, ministers will ignore the huge difficulties created by falling garda numbers at their peril.