Ireland is on the "brink of crisis" in terms of policing with morale at an all-time low, a garda leader warned yesterday.
With 2,000 recent retirements, no recruitment since 2009, up to two daily assaults on force members, salary reductions and the closure of rural stations, morale in the force has hit rock bottom, Damien McCarthy, president of the Garda Representative Association said.
"I think it is a recipe for disaster and I think we have all the necessary ingredients in place now to ensure that we are on the brink of a crisis in this country in terms of policing," he told the GRA's annual delegate conference.
"Along with the 2,000 retirements from the force that left a gaping hole in terms of experience in specific fields, every single garda district in the country has been affected by those 2,000 retirements ... it's going to have an enormous impact on the community, on the causes of crime and the fear of crime in particular in rural Ireland."
The GRA will be calling on Justice Minister Alan Shatter not to shut any more rural stations at the annual conference entitled 'Station closure -- community exposure' in Athlone, Co Westmeath.
Acknowledging the level of public support for the retention of garda stations, particularly in rural Ireland, Mr McCarthy said he didn't believe members of the public would "sit idly by" and allow the closures. "I think the general public are on our side there," he said.
However, Mr McCarthy refused to be drawn on the potential for another "blue flu" should the minister continue with the "ill-thought" policy of station closures.
The GRA says there is urgent need for new legislation to cover assaults on emergency services and hospital staff.
"There is an urgent need by the minister to address that whole area by means of creating new legislation to create stiffer penalties," Mr McCarthy said.
As it stands, the gardai who are accused of crime are treated differently to the public due to the involvement of the Garda Ombudsman.
"Up to two of us per day, members of An Garda Siochana, become victims of savage assaults," Mr McCarthy remarked.
Highlighting his point, Mr McCarthy referred to a recent incident where a member of the Garda National Immigration Bureau suffered 30 stitches as a result of a "horrific" assault while on duty.