Garda Reserve plans in doubt as numbers fall by over 35%

Government plans to significantly expand the Garda Reserve are in question as figures show the strength of the volunteer body has collapsed by 36% in the last two years.

Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan said there were concerns that the potential of the reserve was not being utilised.

He called on Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to “kickstart” the process of boosting the reserve as soon as possible.

Figures supplied by Ms Fitzgerald, in response to a parliamentary question by Mr O’Callaghan, show that overall numbers of reservists fell from 1,179 in 2014 to 870 in May 2016. That fell to 756 last September.

The biggest falls were in:

  • Cork West: Down 54%, from 28 to 13;
  • Clare: Down 50%, from 14 to 7;
  • Kildare: Down 49%, from 45 to 23;
  • Meath: Down 49%, from 43 to 22;
  • Galway: Down 49%, from 70 to 36

The districts with the highest numbers of reservists are Cork City (53, down 29%); Dublin North (52, down 17%), and Dublin South Central (51, down 35%).

The Garda Reserve was set up in 2006 to assist and bolster fully trained gardaí.

Reservists are volunteers, but undergo training and receive expenses as long as they work a minimum of 208 hours per year.

“Concerns have been expressed for some time on not utilising the significant potential of the Garda reserve,” said Mr O’Callaghan.

“This poses a much bigger challenge if the numbers continue to fall.”

He said the Garda Inspectorate, in its December 2015 study Changing Policing in Ireland, found that despite receiving considerable training, reserves were not consistently or strategically maximised for operation purposes.

“Furthermore, the inspectorate said there was no identified champion for the reserveprogramme within the gardaí,” said Mr O’Callaghan.

“It is obvious now that after such a decrease in numbers since the report’s publication, such a champion is even more important.”

He said the inspectorate described recruitment to the reserve as “passive”, with a need for a more strategic process.

In October, on the day of Budget 2017, Ms Fitzgerald said her plan was to increase the Garda Reserve from 800 members to 2,000 by 2021.

Mr O’Callaghan said: “Just last month it was stated that there are plans afoot to more than double the number of Garda Reserves nationally. This would bring the strength of the force up to 2,000. I am calling on the minister to kickstart this process without delay.

“Now is the time to push a new recruitment drive for more reserves and alleviate mounting pressure on sergeants and inspectors.”


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