Drug-testing for gardai will now be mandatory
Move to introduce random tests comes amid fears of growing drug use among younger gardai
Gardai are set to be subjected to mandatory random drug tests, the Sunday Independent has learned.
The force will become the latest State agency to introduce workplace controls on narcotics and follows four years of negotiations.
There are growing concerns that members of An Garda Siochana, like all sections of Irish society, are not immune to the scourge of drug abuse.
The Defence Forces already conduct drugs tests on soldiers - with more than 99.5pc of more than 1,500 random tests carried out last year returning a negative result.
Last summer Dublin Bus put out a tender seeking a company that can conduct drug and alcohol tests on its workers at all its facilities.
Both Irish Rail and the Luas operators also have a drug-testing policy.
The moves to introduce mandatory drug tests in the the Garda Siochana comes in the wake of a number of recent worrying incidents, mainly involving junior members of the force. There is concern among Garda management over a small number of members in their 20s and early 30s who are under financial pressures and who have developed drug habits.
The fear among senior officers is that drug use can leave younger gardai vulnerable to corruption by organised gangs behind the drugs trade in Ireland.
Senior gardai who spoke to the Sunday Independent this weekend said there are "concerns" over the issue, particularly in relation to younger gardai who have grown up in circles where drug-taking is a commonplace occurrence.
The force is now expected to adopt measures similar to those in place in UK forces for the past decade that allow for random testing.
Testing in the gardai is expected to be allowed where there is "reasonable suspicion" of drug-taking. Officers seeking promotion will also have to undergo tests.
The changes are expected to be covered by an amendment to the Garda's discipline regulations.
When asked about plans for the introduction of testing, the Garda Press Office confirmed: "An Garda Siochana has given a lot of thought to the introduction of mandatory and random drug-testing. The development of a policy in the absence of a legislative provision requiring employees to be subject to drug-testing is a complex issue, but one that is at an advanced stage in An Garda Siochana whereby consultations have taken place with the staff associations and trade unions."
A spokesman for the Garda Representative Association told the Sunday Independent: "The Garda Representative Association has representatives on a Garda Working Group to establish protocols and procedure for drug-testing of members of the Force. It is too early to pre-judge the outcome of the Working Group. Nobody would condone the taking of illicit drugs."
One recent case involved a female garda who was detained but not arrested after being caught with an 'eighth' deal of cocaine (around a gram sold for between €50 and €80).
In a separate case, another female garda has been suspended and is under investigation following her arrest and detention in the company of an alleged member of a major drugs gangs based in Sligo.
Last May former Garda Stephen Cooper (30) was sentenced to three years imprisonment for possession of cocaine for supply, attempting to pervert the course of justice by allowing an innocent man be prosecuted for drugs possession and stealing a bag of cannabis worth €560 from Sundrive Garda Station.
Cooper, the son of a garda, was described in court as an addict but is now in recovery.