Leaving the Gardaí was like ‘walking away from an abusive relationship’ – what resigning members are saying in exit interviews
Gardaí exiting the force are equating it to leaving a “toxic or abusive relationship” a Garda Representative Association (GRA) officer conducting exit interviews has said.
Garda Tara McManus, Assistant General Secretary of the GRA, is conducting interviews with gardaí resigning from the force and said the phenomenon of gardaí resigning en masse is “new and unusual” for the force.
Some 109 gardaí resigned last year – the most ever in a year – and if 2023 trends continue, up to 150 could resign from the force this year, Ms McManus said.
“I've had some people describe walking away from An Garda Síochána as walking away from a toxic, abusive relationship. I've had other people describe their experiences as, ‘I stopped being an investigator and I became an administrator’.
“Every single person I've interviewed has been fighting mental health issues. Due to their mental health, they just couldn't cope with another single day doing the job they're doing and they also talk about being overworked.
“They talked about being under-resourced. They talk about that lack of acknowledgement. I mean, I'm talking about something as simple as an email saying well done. That sort of stuff just doesn't happen,” Garda McManus said, on RTÉ’s This Week show.
Laura Young was a garda for 14 years and recently left the force citing a “lack of acknowledgement”, an increased focus on admin, public perception towards gardaí and also the toll the job took on her mental health.
“There were times where I would sit at home just trying to recover from the working days. It's really hard to explain but anyone who suffers from anxiety or bouts of depression will understand what I mean when I say even getting up to shower is sometimes really, really difficult to do. It's like an Everest.
“Things became very stagnant as a result of the [hiring] embargo, quite stagnant. No new people coming in. There were no promotions, no people getting onto specialist units. Therefore people were stuck in a unit together which is fine when you get along but after 5,6,7,8 years, staff members become very frustrated because they're not getting rewarded for their good work.
"That's another issue in and of itself. And lack of acknowledgement of good work, I think is a big problem in this particular job,” Ms Young said.
Ms Young said she was assaulted once during her tenure as a garda, but added: “I know that’s not the norm, usually it’s a lot more than that.”
“The policies and procedures, the lack of job satisfaction, the lack of camaraderie, the lack of morale, the lack of fun, good workplace relationships. A combination of those factors really resulted in me thinking I can't do this anymore,” Ms Young told the RTÉ programme.
Garda McManus said Ms Young’s story is one replicated with “every single person that I have spoken to over the last number of weeks and months”.
“I do think we have decent support, but I think there's an awful lot more we could do to help our members.”
She said that the bureaucracy within the job is also a major drawback to serving members.
“For example, if you are in a town and a traffic accident happens outside the garda station, 20-30 feet outside, somebody might run in and say, ‘oh garda, there's an accident out there’. The guard can't go out and deal with that accident until that member of the public rings 999, records the call and that guard then receives a call from the command control system to go and deal with the call,” Ms McManus said.
A garda campaign launched this week aims to recruit 1,000 new members into the force this year but the GRA rep said she doesn't think this is achievable.
“I don't think the Garda College has the capacity, the Garda College needs to take in 225 trainees every 12 weeks in order to deliver on those 1,000 members. Here we are at the end of March and so far we've brought in 136.
“I went down to meet those new recruits a number of weeks ago when they started on the Monday there were 136. By the time I went down to meet them on Thursday, it was down to 132. And those 132, more than likely, won't be the same 132 graduating that's going to drop down.
“But those members, we will not see those members on our streets until just before Christmas. So even if we do get 1,000 members in the Garda College this year, we will not realistically see those 1,000 guards out on our streets until next year or late next year. So you know, for the immediate, we don't have an answer to our high numbers of retirements and our high number of resignations,” Garda McManus said.