Drew Harris: Urgent meeting on Garda reforms

Drew Harris: Urgent meeting on Garda reforms

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has summoned local commanders to a meeting in the Garda College, Templemore, next Monday on his new policing plan.

The urgent meeting follows serious concerns being expressed by associations representing the entire ranks of local management, from sergeants to chief superintendent, about the contents of the plan and what they say is a complete lack of consultation about it. Chief superintendents will meet the commissioner in the morning and superintendents in the afternoon.

The Irish Examiner also understands the Association of Garda Superintendents wrote to the commissioner on Wednesday informing him that they reserved the right to go to the Workplace Relations Commission regarding possible breaches of the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 over a lack of consultation.

It is thought the Association of Chief Superintendents may have done so, but this could not be confirmed. The instruction issued by the commissioner yesterday followed a press conference in which he said there had been “enough consultation” on his plan and it was a “time for action”.

While the Garda Inspectorate and the Policing Authority backed the new policing plan, the Roads Safety Authority has sought “an urgent meeting” with the commissioner over a “downgrading of road safety” in the new policing structure.

The commissioner’s plan, ‘A Policing Service for the Future’, has been described by the Policing Authority as the “most significant structural change” in An Garda Síochána since its inception.

As revealed last month in the Irish Examiner, the plan will see a cut in divisions from 28 to 19, along with a reduction in Garda regions, from six to four, and a complete overhaul within divisions in how they provide police services.

  • Divisions earmarked to merge are Cork North and Cork West; Clare and Tipperary; Mayo and Roscommon/ Longford; Donegal and Sligo/Leitrim; Cavan/ Monaghan and Louth; Meath and Westmeath; Laois/ Offaly and Kildare; Wicklow and Wexford; Waterford; and Kilkenny/Carlow;
  • The six Dublin divisions, Cork City, Limerick, Galway, and Kerry divisions will continue;
  • A new North Western Region incorporating the current Northern Region (Donegal, Sligo/Leitrim, Cavan/Monaghan, and Louth) and Mayo, Galway and Roscommon/Longford from the Western Region;
  • A new Eastern Region including the current one (Meath, Westmeath, Laois/Offaly, Kildare, and Wicklow) and Kilkenny/Carlow, Waterford, and Wexford of the South Eastern Region;
  • A new Southern Region replacing the current one (Cork West, Cork North, Cork City, Kerry, and Limerick) and will also take in Clare and Tipperary.

In addition, all divisions will change internally, with superintendents no longer having a geographical responsibility for a district, but having a specific role across the entire division — either crime, performance, or community engagement.

Mr Harris said each division will have an assistant principal officer to take over all administration duties and that new divisions will have enhanced detective and specialist units.

He said people will see an enhanced service locally. He said an extra 1,800 gardaí will be deployed to operational policing by 2021, as a result of 1,000 gardaí being freed up from administrative roles and a net increase of 800 through recruitment.

Senior representative bodies said that the plan, on paper, will see nine fewer chief superintendent positions and around 30 fewer superintendent positions.

Supt Noel Cunningham, president of the Association of Garda Superintendents, said they were “very disappointed” at the lack of consultation and said they had no understanding of the plan’s rationale.

He said he was concerned for the 30 members and the “complete change” in job description for other members. He said they will see after Monday’s meeting the next steps for the association.

Chief Supt Fergus Healy, president of the Association of Chief Superintendents, told RTÉ they were concerned that the “huge” new divisions did not have the necessary infrastructure or IT services.

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