A network of 19 “mini police forces” is to be set up across the country under a massive restructuring of the Garda organisation.
But local police commanders, at superintendent and chief superintendent level, are expressing serious concerns at the new model.
The Irish Examiner understands their representative associations are seeking industrial relations and legal advice on its implications, believing it might breach existing agreements. As previously revealed in this newspaper, the plan will create new “super divisions”, by cutting their number, from 28 to 19, over a three-year period.
The flagship Garda Operating Model, led by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, will also reduce the number of Garda regions, from six to four, which will be implemented from next Monday.
There are suggestions the plan will mean up to nine chief superintendents and as many as 30 superintendents — almost a fifth of all superintendents — may be “surplus to requirements”.
Local commanders stress that while they are obviously concerned at the cut, their main concern was whether or not the new structure would improve services to the public and suspect the restructuring is primarily a “cost-cutting” measure.
But Garda HQ sources said any suggestion of a “mass cull” of posts was “not going to happen”. They said retirements would come into play as might a severance package, and said two new chief superintendent positions at national units had recently been created.
These sources said that while the new model was about improving structures, it was “ultimately” about increasing numbers on the frontline and improving community policing.
They said the Policing Authority recently put 33 inspectors on a promotion panel to superintendent and just started a competition for a chief superintendent panel. Details of the plan are being announced this morning by the commissioner and senior Garda management.
Divisions being merged 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; Kilkenny/Carlow and Waterford.
The six Dublin divisions, Cork city, Limerick, Galway and Kerry remain. A new North Western Region will include Donegal, Sligo/Leitrim, Cavan/Monaghan and Louth from the current Northern Region and Mayo, Galway and Roscommon/Longford from the Western Region.
The new Eastern Region will incorporate Meath, Westmeath, Laois/Offaly, Kildare and Wicklow from the current Eastern Region and Kilkenny/Carlow, Waterford and Wexford from the South Eastern Region.
The Southern Region will replace the current one (Cork West, Cork North, Cork City, Kerry and Limerick) and take in Clare and Tipperary. The commissioner said the new divisions will be “operationally independent” with budgetary and administrative resources.
The “divisional” model will replace the current “district” model. There are 107 of these, headed by a superintendent. Under the new model, there won’t be a superintendent in charge of everything in the district, but a divisional superintendent in charge of crime, two to three in charge of community engagement, one for performance, and an assistant principal officer in charge of HR, administration and finance.
Senior representative bodies are concerned at not being consulted about the new model before it was agreed, and were only briefed about it last Tuesday.
The Association of Garda Superintendents’ national executive is due to meet today and the Association of Garda Chief Superintendents is also expected to meet. They believe the new model “may be in conflict” with the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-20.
Update: 8.15am GRA General Secretary Pat Ennis has welcomed Garda Commissioner Drew Harris’s indication that he is open to considering feedback from the association following publication of the proposed Garda Síochána operating model this morning.
“I met with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris yesterday. He assured me the plan published this morning is not necessarily the last word on this issue and that the views of the GRA and others will be considered," said Mr Ennis.
“I welcome this, and the fact that the Commissioner has ended the speculation around the plan which was based on a version leaked to the media.
“The absence of hard information was a concern to our members around the country – and other community stakeholders too.
“If the commitment in the operating model to provide enhanced policing capabilities and support at local and regional level is delivered, then we would welcome the increased safety and welfare of our members. This would also enable us to provide a better service to the public.
“The proposed reorganisation could have a significant effect on our members’ working lives and their lines of management accountability. There could also be implications for our representation structures which will need to be considered when our Executive meets in September.”