Two hundred promised Garda recruits will start training as early as December in a bid to reverse a continuing reduction in Garda numbers.
The Garda Representative Association welcomed the recruitment but said it was only a “band aid” and predicted that Garda numbers could fall to as low as 12,000 by the time the recruits come on line.
And it will still be 1,000 below the 13,000 minimum set by previous Garda commissioner Martin Callinan. The force’s strength currently stands at around 12,900.
In what Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald described as a “breakthrough budget”, the total justice allocation has seen its first increase since 2008, bringing funding back to just above 2013 levels.
Under Budget 2015, current expenditure has increased from €2.121bn to €2.156bn (+2%), while capital expenditure has jumped from €64m to €107m (+68%). For the Garda Síochána, this means:
n€3m for new Garda vehicles, bringing to 400 the number of new vehicles this year and next year;
n€42m in capital funding to construct three new Garda divisional headquarters: Galway, Kevin Street in Dublin, and Wexford;
n€4m towards Garda ICT systems;
n200 new recruits — 100 starting in December and 100 in January.
The number is in addition to the 100 recruits enrolled last September.
“This funding substantially addresses the underlying payroll shortfall of the Garda vote and will allow me to proceed with my objective of ongoing recruitment of new gardaí,” said Ms Fitzgerald.
GRA president Dermot O’Brien said: “We welcome the 200 recruits but we would say it’s not even a band aid. They won’t be ready until 2016 and an estimated 1,200 members can retire as we speak.”
He said that, on average, around 350 gardaí retire annually which meant the force “could be below 12,000” within the next two or three years.
Ms Fitzgerald said she would review staffing during 2015 with a view to agreeing further intakes as required.
In relation to the 400 new vehicles, Mr O’Brien asked how many ‘retired’ cars were being replaced, saying the force was down 30% of the fleet at its peak. He said vehicles needed to be “fit for purpose” and not just ordinary family saloons with a 1.4 litre engine.
The increases in the Justice budget includes €500,000 towards establishing the new Policing Authority, an additional €1m towards strengthening the new Garda Ombudsman (bringing its total budget to €9m) as well as an additional €250,000 to the Garda Inspectorate.
Some €6.3m has been set aside for the recently created Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.
Justice budgetGross total Justice budget up from €2.185bn to €2.263bn (+4%).
Gross Garda budget up from €1.344bn to €1.426bn (+6%).
Gross Prisons budget relatively unchanged at €325m.
Gross Courts Service budget up from €104.56m to €106.56m (+2%).
Gross Dept of Justice budget down, €380.5m to €367.7m (-3.4%).
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