Thursday 23 January 2020

Gardai 'unfazed' by plan to open ranks

Justice Minister will allow senior PSNI officers to join force

JIM CUSACK

Senior gardai were unperturbed last week at the announcement by Minister for Justice and Defence Alan Shatter that members of the PSNI will be allowed to apply for senior posts in the Garda.

There were some mutterings among lower ranks -- with garda representatives complaining that there had been little consultation with them about the new arrangements -- but senior gardai were sanguine about the proposals, saying they expect few senior PSNI officers to look for jobs in the Republic.

Mr Shatter has also agreed significant promotions in recent months with 28 vacant posts at senior level in the Garda filled with other outstanding promotions to the ranks of assistant commissioner, chief superintendent and superintendent due later this year.

Salary scale comparisons show that the PSNI is marginally better paid than the Garda overall, but significantly better paid at the very top. The PSNI chief constable grade (with a Sterling to Euro conversion on Friday of e1 to £1.20) is €233,022 compared to the Garda Commissioner salary of €185,000.

A deputy chief constable in the PSNI is paid €189,329 compared to €157,961 in the Garda (there are two positions in each force at deputy level).

Below the two most senior ranks the salary scales show that both forces are paid roughly similar amounts from the ranks of garda/constable up to assistant commissioner/assistant chief constable.

Gardai say that the PSNI, which has been reduced dramatically in size from 12,500 to only around 7,500 since the Good Friday Agreement, are also doing much better with allowances and overtime and have not suffered the same cuts that gardai have had in the past three years.

The new scheme approved by the minister and implemented last week is the first time that senior PSNI officers can apply for full-time positions at senior rank in the Garda. Similar arrangements have already been in place in the PSNI which has been open to applications from outside police forces for years.

Under the new rules for policing in Northern Ireland introduced under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, emphasis was placed trying to get the mainly Catholic gardai to work in Northern Ireland with the PSNI -- and vice versa -- but relatively few officers from either force participated.

It is understood about 60 in all opted for brief exchange programmes, but one Garda superintendent -- now in Dublin -- spent 18 months on secondment and is said by colleagues to have found the experience highly instructive.

Other gardai who have participated in the exchange system have spoken highly of what they say are vastly better organisational arrangements in the PSNI, which has given priority to civilianising non-policing work.

Gardai of mid-management rank speak of being amazed that their counterparts in Northern Ireland had none of the, often petty, administrative tasks that they have to perform.

The PSNI equipment and information systems are also more advanced than those in the Garda, who have had major problems introducing new technologies. The new Garda Tetra radio system took over 10 years to introduce and the computerised information system PULSE has had huge problems but is now working well, gardai say. The PSNI have far more and better computerised equipment on board their vehicles.

Mr Shatter's new regulations allow members of the PSNI at the rank of Inspector or above to compete for appointment, in the same competition as similar ranks in the Garda Siochana, to the ranks of Superintendent, Chief Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner in the Garda Siochana.

Sunday Independent

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