Restructure will see 1,800 more gardaí on frontline

Restructure will see 1,800 more gardaí on frontline

The restructuring of An Garda Síochána must be funded and communities consulted, opposition parties say.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said the new operating model for the gardaí, which has long been recommended by independent policing specialists, will reduce bureaucracy and put more gardaí on the beat.

Almost 1,800 additional gardaí will be deployed to frontline duties as part of the restructuring. The plans, published by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, have been widely welcomed by political parties and other groups.

However, Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman, Jim O’Callaghan, called for detailed consultation with community groups, victims representative groups, and garda representatives, in the coming months, so that the purpose of these operational changes is explained:

The planned changes are sweeping in scope and will require broad support, if they are to succeed. This plan must not become a cost-cutting exercise. Any additional savings generated by this reorganisation plan should be reinvested in policing.

Sinn Féin justice spokesman, Martin Kenny, said the measures are progressive, but that without adequate resources and training, they will not work: “I am very concerned that these plans will come to nothing, unless additional resources are provided to the police service to implement them.

“Just two weeks ago, the Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, was telling senior officers to scale back for the rest of the year to deal with a wage bill overspend of €4.5m."

Welcoming the changes, Mr Flanagan said the overhaul will reduce bureaucracy and move real power and decision-making from Garda Headquarters to the chief superintendents who lead garda divisions in the communities they serve: “Importantly, it will also result in more frontline leadership positions, with sergeants and inspectors on the ground, where leadership, supervision, and mentoring are crucial.”

Mr Flanagan added: “In delivering on this commitment, the commissioner has listened carefully to those experts and, crucially, to the voices of local communities, who consistently make clear that they want to see more gardaí available on the ground.

“While new to Ireland, this model is the norm in other countries and I am confident that the new structure will serve Ireland well and lead to a more agile and responsive police service, improving safety for our local communities nationwide.”

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