Garda drug units hit hard in staffing cuts

Overall manpower reduced by 30% in four years even as the drugs trade grows in size and profitability

The strength of local Garda drug units has been axed by 30% in the last four years.

And the resumption of recruitment over the last year has resulted in just four extra gardaí.

Busy divisions, like Dublin South, Dublin West, Limerick and Wexford, have been hard hit, while two divisions — Cavan/Monaghan and Laois/Offaly — have no drug officers.

Official statistics show that 21 of the 28 garda divisions have had their drug-unit strength reduced since 2011.

The figures, provided in a reply to a parliamentary question, show a drop of 28% in the strength of the divisional drug units, from 359 at the close of 2011, to 257 at the end of 2015. This is up just four from the end of 2014.

“The organisation, as a whole, has lost five million police hours per annum since 2010,” said a spokesman for the Garda Representative Association.

“What we are seeing, with the divisional drug units, is just part of that bigger picture.” He said one out of every six guards who has retired since 2010 has not been replaced.

“Some 2,500 people have left the force, out of 14,500 in 2010 — and most of those, a bigger percentage than any other rank, have come from the garda rank.”

Figures provided by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald show that:

  • Limerick drug unit has halved, from 20, in 2011, to 10, in 2015.
  • Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) South has almost halved, from 31 to 16.
  • DMR West has dropped from 35 to 26.
  • DMR North has been cut from 32 to 25, in 2015 (but was 16 in 2014).
  • Wexford has been cut from 11, in 2011, to just one, in 2015.
  • Cavan/Monaghan, which had eight members in 2011, now has none.
  • Laois/Offaly, which had six, now has none.

Cork City unit has risen by one, from 24 to 25 (although down from 29 in 2013). Cork North has fallen from seven to five (nine in 2013), while Cork West has dropped from seven to two.

Other divisions that have suffered include Wicklow (from 11 to four), Waterford (10 to six), Donegal (12 to eight), Clare (nine to five), Westmeath (nine to four) and Meath (seven to four).

One senior garda source said chief superintendents — the divisional commanders — have been seriously tested by the cuts to staff specialist units, like drugs.

“The chief has to decide that he wants X number in drugs, he will have to take from the regular and detective units, which have been so badly cut already,” he said.

“A lot of this is a paper-based exercise. They say X number are in the drug unit, but many of those are doing other work.”

Fianna Fail Senator Darragh O’Brien, chairperson of the North Dublin Regional Drugs and Alcohol Taskforce, said: “The drugs racket is bigger, and more profitable, than ever, but these figures show the gardaí are being severely hampered in preventing and investigating drug- related crime.”


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