Minister admits gardaí need big investment to take on cyber criminals
The Garda force needs major investment in new technology to boost their efforts in combating cyber crime, the Justice Minister has admitted.
Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the force was entering into a very complex era and the Government had to take a fresh look at resources in a variety of areas, alongside its planned programme of reform.
During the Celtic Tiger years, there had been no investment in information technology and that needed to be addressed.
But she told the annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors in Trim that this investment could not be delivered immediately.
However, she insisted the Government now had a clear plan on what was required and this would be implemented as a commitment had been given for new investment.
The minister had earlier announced the recruitment of an additional 250 gardaí, in two batches, over the next six months, which will bring the overall intake of recruits at the Garda College in Templemore to 550.
She believes that the strength of the force will be kept at 13,000.
Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan had earlier told the conference on Tuesday that the force needed 325 recruits a year to "stand still", or match the exodus of members through retirements, deaths and resignations.
The current strength of the force is 12,800.
But the garda supervisors warned that the new recruits would not solve the chronic shortage of personnel available for frontline policing.
Association president Tim Galvin said it was a management myth that gardaí had enough resources.
"On the frontline, it is like the loaves and fishes scenario.
"We provide an emergency service and we have heard many complaints that people are not getting the service they expect.
"People cannot get that service because we do not have the resources", he said. However, the association welcomed the announcement of the additional 250 recruits.
General secretary John Redmond said those recruits would boost the morale of the force with their input of fresh thinking and new ideas.
He said there was now a realisation that it had been a mistake to stop recruitment in 2009 and the then government took its eye off the ball.
Asked if the number of recruits was sufficient, Mr Redmond said: "You have to walk before you can run and this is an excellent start".
He added: "You need new people, new blood, the enthusiasm that new recruits bring to an organisation", Mr Redmond added.
But Mr Galvin told the minister that on the frontline they were putting sticking plasters over the cracks in the hope that the system would not break.
The problem was that the system might survive - but the men and women providing the service might not, as the work overload was becoming more acute.
He claimed the garda organisation was being asked to implement 21st century policing plans but with 19th century back-up, and the lack of investment in infrastructure was a disgrace.
The minister praised the commitment and dedication of gardaí, as had been shown in recent investigations.
"Let's not paint the entire force as if there is a problem with each and every one of them", she said.
"Let's recognise the good work that has been done and a lot of that is hidden."