Gardaí criticise cut to training funds

Frontline gardaí have strongly criticised cuts to the training budget at a time of accelerated recruitment and a backlog of training needs for existing members.

The Garda Representative Association, with more than 10,400 rank and file members, said the cuts in training were “inexplicable”, particularly given the “chronic lack” of training over the last 10 years because of austerity.

Budget 2018 shows that the training and development budget was cut from €12.7m in 2017 to €11.6m in 2018, down 8%.

The GRA welcomed the Government’s commitment to recruit a further 800 trainee gardaí in 2018, but said it would “fail to cure” the damage caused to the organisation by the moratorium between 2008 and 2013.

“There is no longer a visible garda presence in urban areas and even less in rural Ireland,” said GRA spokesman John O’Keeffe.

“Street and neighbourhood patrols — the heart of successful policing — have been slashed due to falling numbers.”

He said the accelerated recruitment was not being met with adequate levels of supervision.

He added: “Furthermore — and inexplicably — no funding was allocated in the budget to advance garda training and development.

“Indeed, this fund was cut by a third this year from 2016 — from €19m to 12.7m — notwithstanding the chronic lack of garda training over the last 10 years and the effect this invariably has and will have on garda efficiencies and ongoing professional development.”

The issue of training has been raised by the Policing Authority, which highlighted the lack of an organisational training strategy — one that sets out the training demands and how those needs should be met.

It said it was particularly concerned that trainee gardaí continue to leave Templemore Training College without driver training, exacerbating the backlog of driver training to be completed.

Garda bosses have told the authority they are trying to address the issue.

The GRA also expressed concern about the lack of funding for “dilapidated and run down garda stations”, saying their condition affected not only staff but the public.

The Budget shows a 31% reduction in capital funding for the Garda Síochána (from €84m to €61m) and an 11% reduction in current expenditure in the Maintenance of Garda Premises section (from €721,000 to €642,000).

In his Budget statement, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said the capital funding provided would allow for the completion of new district headquarters in Kevin Street, Dublin South Central, and Galway.

He said the projected €400m over the next four years under the government capital plan should deliver new district headquarters in Sligo, Macroom and Clonmel.

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