The Garda Commissioner is to investigate claims that Cork’s specialist sex crimes unit is no longer functioning.
The Irish Examiner understands that the Divisional Protective Services Unit has not been operational since late 2018 and is not taking on new cases.
Instead, the paper has been told by numerous sources that other detective units are having to take on an extra workload as a result. And, sources claim, this has led to a drain on resources.
Indeed, there are claims that Cork is down 24 detectives and needs at least 100 front line staff to bring it up to “competent operational levels”.
Commissioner Harris responded: “I am aware Cork has had a heavy workload over the last year in respect of some very serious criminality. That has put pressure on detective resources. At the same time, they've made good progress with investigations they have conducted.”
He insisted that garda management are “committed to protect” the Protective Services Unit.
And he said more Divisional Protective Services Unit detectives “will be rolled out by the end of next month”.
He added: “We continue to progress. We have the highest number of detectives that we've ever had in the organisation and that reflects on the demands that we are placed on us. There is high demand everywhere.”
He was asked again whether or not the Divisional Protective Services Unit is operational.
“My understanding is that it is but I can double-check that for you,” he said.
He was speaking at the Passing Out Ceremony at the Garda Training College in Templemore.
The newly attested gardaí will see the number of gardaí increase to 14,467. This is the largest number of sworn gardaí in 10 years.
Of the probationers allocated to different regions, 92 are going to the Dublin Regions, 17 are going to Cork, and 14 are going to Meath.
Addressing the probationers, Commissioner Harris warned them that gardaí are about to launch a major new war on drugs.
He said it is necessary because of the spread of drugs and drug-dealing throughout the country: “So-called street level drug dealing is become more prevalent and is no longer confined to city and urban areas. This drug dealing is corrosive. It is corrosive to those who take the drugs and corrosive to the communities where it takes place. (It is also) corrosive to the families and individuals facing intimidation and violence as a result of their loved one's involvement in the drug trade.”
He said a key priority for An Garda Síochána in 2020 is tackling drug dealing.
And he told them: “In the coming months, we will be introducing a major operation and every one of you will have a part to play in it.”
However, he also told them — in remarks aimed directly at people who take drugs at whatever level — that gardaí need society’s help: “This is a societal issue requiring a societal response. Those who think their use of so-called casual drugs has no real harmful effect need to think again. There is no such thing as consequence-free drug taking. It is not an abstract issue that can be forgotten about the next morning or excused. Every cent they spend on drugs helps to solidify the power of crime gangs who terrorize families and communities."
“Every cent they spend on drugs supports gangs involved in the most terrible of exploitation and violation of the human rights of our fellow human beings through human trafficking, sexual slavery, and child abuse.”