Tuesday 22 January 2019

No new gardaí for 'crime corridors', says Flanagan

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has ruled out recruiting gardaí to cope with a feared post-Brexit manpower crisis in the force.

Senior Garda officers warned the minister that new demands created by Brexit in the Border region would require a significant increase in Garda strength.

They also said large areas of the country would be denuded of gardaí to ensure policing along the Border was adequate to deal with "crime corridors" if the force was not increased.

But the minister told the annual conference of the Association of Garda Superintendents (AGS) in Naas, Co Kildare, yesterday he was satisfied with existing recruitment plans.

Mr Flanagan said his ambition was to ensure that an organisation of 21,000 gardaí, reservists and civilians was in place by 2021.

"We are moving progressively towards that", he added.

He said the strength of the force would be in excess of 14,000 this year and for the first time, since the moratorium on recruitment, the net intake was more than 500 annually.

In response to a call by the association for planning to cope with the post-Brexit demands to begin immediately, Mr Flanagan said the Government had been planning for Brexit since long before the British people voted.

However, the association argued that an overall figure of 800 recruits a year, culminating in an annual intake of 500, would not be sufficient to meet Border demands without numbers in other Garda divisions being badly hit.

Association president Noel Cunningham said the major reduction in policing presence on the Border since the start of the peace process created new challenges with Brexit with the number of Border crossings having at least quadrupled since the Troubles, opening up what he called "crime corridors".

Meanwhile, senior officers claimed they are being denied justice by lengthy delays in completing investigations by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc).

One-in-five Garda superintendents is currently at the centre of investigations by Gsoc and in most cases they are being held to account because of a complaint lodged against a member of the force under their control.

The inquiries are taking between three and five years to complete and, according to the AGS, its members do not have the "robust" legal representative structures they require to support them.

Mr Cunningham told delegates yesterday: "Justice delayed is justice denied."

He estimated about 30 of the association's 166-strong membership were involved in Gsoc investigations, mainly because gardaí under their overall supervision were subjected to complaints or accused of wrongdoing.

He said his members were also concerned that they were being drafted in to take charge of investigations because Gsoc had not been given sufficient resources.

Gsoc had been established to ensure the public had independent investigations into complaints against the force.

Irish Independent

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