Northwest gardaí vow not to back volunteer service

Angry gardaí across the Northwest of the country have vowed not to tolerate the creation of a volunteer reserve force, it emerged today.

Over a thousand gardaí from all over the Northwestern region warned at a major meeting in Sligo that they will not under any circumstances support a Garda Reserve force.

A spokesman for the Garda Representative Association (GRA) and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) said members had expressed anger and concern at Justice Minister Michael McDowell’s proposals.

“Those who attended sent a very strong message to the leadership of both AGSI and the GRA that they will not under any circumstance tolerate the reserve force in an Garda Siochana. They have made it very clear that they will not work alongside them, and they will not have any hand, act or part in their selection, recruitment or training,” the spokesman said, after the 1,000-strong meeting in the Sligo Park Hotel.

“They are now calling on the Government and the Garda Commissioner that they want leadership on this issue. They do not want to see their work undervalued or undermined but supported and proper resources be made available to the force as a matter of urgency.”

Mr McDowell plans to recruit around 900 volunteers into the Garda Reserve by September to carry out policing duties in the presence of uniformed gardai.

Some of the 1,000 garda members from Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo and Galway said the proposals attempted to denigrate, undervalue and undermine their force through the introduction of the Garda Reserve.

Members said their position was being consistently undermined through poor policy making, and were heavily critical of Mr McDowell’s handling of the situation.

The GRA said this was the first of a series of regional information meetings, with the next gathering taking place next Monday in Rochestown Park Hotel in Cork.

At the Sligo meeting, Joe Dirwan, AGSI president, said Mr McDowell’s aim was to undermine their profession and to create a second rate police force.

“His Garda Reserve proposal is designed to show that our job can be done by an unpaid volunteer with minimal training who does not have to live under any of the restrictive covenants that we do,” he said.

The Garda Reserve will carry out tasks such as station duty, foot patrols, road traffic checkpoints, community policing and major event policing in co-operation with uniformed gardai.

Mr McDowell has warned against a policy of non-co-operation, stating that the reserve had been approved by the Oireachtas when they voted through the Garda Act 2005.

The GRA said the reserve would lead to a dumbing-down of policing and a de-professionalising of the force.

According to a report from the Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy, reservists will get 120 hours training and they will be vetted like normal gardai to ensure there is no infiltration by subversive or criminal elements.

Mr McDowell said he would consult with the Garda unions about the formation of the reserve, which will eventually have a strength of 4,000 members.

He said the Garda Reserve will be a supplementary support, and not a replacement for gardai, and added that he had examined police reserves in other countries.

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