Cormac O'Keeffe: Garda recruitment target fears in Programme for Government

Cormac O'Keeffe: Garda recruitment target fears in Programme for Government
Garda HQ has said that, because of Covid-19, only 275 student gardaí will be recruited in 2020, compared to the planned intake of 700.

Frontline gardaí have described as “worrying” the lack of specific targets on garda recruitment in the Programme for Government.

The outgoing Government set a target of 15,000 gardaí by the end of 2021. Fine Gael committed to this in its election manifesto, while Fianna Fáil promised 16,000.

As reported in the Irish Examiner on Monday, the proposed programme simply states: “Continue to train new recruits annually.” 

Garda HQ has said that, because of Covid-19, only 275 student gardaí will be recruited in 2020, compared to the planned intake of 700.

The Garda Representative Association welcomed the commitment in the proposed programme to implement the Commission on the Future of Policing (CoFPI).

But GRA general secretary Pat Ennis said: “The absence of a specific number for Garda recruitment is worrying. The Garda Workforce plan envisages 15,000 sworn gardaí by 2021. Already recruitment milestones have not been met.” 

He said there are other aspects of CoFPI not being observed by Garda management: "There is substantial investment needed in critical areas such as Garda welfare, health and safety, Garda training - including human rights training and associated infrastructure. 

"There is also an urgent need for works on making Garda stations compliant with health and safety legislation."

Sources at Garda HQ level said while it would have been good to see a recruitment number in the programme, it is important to see a commitment to recruit.

Sources said numbers could be fleshed out with the Department of Justice. They said the strength currently stands at 14,700 and that the target of 15,000 is “still doable”.

The reduced intake of 275 this year will barely match retirements, meaning around 600 recruits will have to be taken on next year.

On other areas, senior sources welcomed commitments for legislation to combat anti-social use of scramblers and quads.

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