Chronic shortages of gardaí in Cork meant just two members of the force were patrolling the city centre one night and a special unit investigating sex crimes is unable to take on new cases because it is not adequately staffed.
Despite the fact that gardaí in the city are investigating three murders, the number of detectives has been almost halved.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA) says the people of Cork City are not getting the policing service they deserve because they are short 125 frontline gardaí.
Gardaí are bogged down doing secretarial work as civilian typists are not being made available to them to type witness statements or interview transcripts. The GRA has described this situation as “farcical” considering there is supposed to be a major push to civilianise administrative work within the force.
The GRA says that single-officer patrols — which regularly occur in stations such as Douglas, Ballincollig and Blarney — are “a health and safety issue”.
On one night, Saturday March 30, just a single patrol car containing two gardaí was operating in the city centre at a time when thousands of people were spilling out of nightclubs.
The district detective unit based in Anglesea Street Garda Station has had its numbers cut from 30 in 2013 to just 16 now. They are currently investigating three murders, while also expected to investigate other serious crime.
The Protective Service Unit (PSU), which investigates sexual crime, had to stop taking on new cases in the autumn of 2018 because it was not properly resourced. The unit has an average workload of 39 complex cases per garda.
GRA central executive member Padraig Harrington said a comparison was carried out with the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) West Division when a business case was being done for extra resources in the Cork City PSU. DMR West has 20 detectives assigned to the PSU, Cork City has eight.
Garda Harrington said: “The investigation numbers [for both] are broadly similar. We understand that Garda HRM [human resources management] has advised that the PSU in Cork City should be back-filled from the resources that exist in the division. But we have to ask the question, where will these members be taken from, or what unit will have to be disbanded to facilitate this?”
Garda Harrington said he appreciated local management’s efforts to get more manpower for specialist and regular units.
“If requests are not coming from Dublin divisions, then senior management in Dublin don’t want to know,” he said.
A number of new patrol cars assigned to the Garda Southern Region earlier this year were subsequently diverted to divisions in Dublin.
The GRA has carried out a study of resources across 10 garda divisions to highlight the imbalance between the population served by the number of gardaí assigned. The numbers are based on official garda figures.
In the DMR South Central, there are 703 gardaí serving a population of 124,255. That equates to one garda per 207 people. In DMR South, 800 gardaí serve 215,160 people, or one garda per 359 people.
Limerick has 490 gardaí for a population of 166,817, or one garda per 340 people. Waterford has a population of 112,967 and 275 gardaí, meaning a ratio of one garda to 411 people.
On the other hand, the Cork City Garda Division has 576 gardaí for 246,282 people, a ratio of one garda to 427 people.
Over a three-night period in January, the GRA carried out a snapshot survey of the number of calls seeking assistance from the public in different Garda divisions.
The most calls, 688, were received in Dublin’s DMR West Division. The Cork City Division came second with 633 calls.
Five other divisions in Dublin were also monitored, including DMR East which received just 257 calls.
An Garda Síochána doesn't comment on remarks by third parties. Garda numbers in Cork City have increased by a net total of 20 since 2014.
Additional personnel will be going into the PSU early next week on temporary transfer and an application is in to run a competition to provide increase personnel on a permanent basis.
The amount of Garda personnel in a division is not determined by population alone. Comparing divisions by population fails to take into account crucial factors such as crime trends and demographics.
These factors and others are taken on-board by An Garda Síochána when distributing personnel.