GRA urges supports for garda wellbeing

Better supports are needed to help frontline gardaí who are increasingly suffering from mental health problems brought on by a growing number of assaults on them and the rising pressures of the job.

That is to be the call from the Garda Representative Association (GRA) when it unveils the findings of a well-being survey at its annual conference this week, which is expected to paint a stark picture of the strain many gardaí are under.

The report has been compiled by Dr Finian Fallon, the son of Garda Richard Fallon, who was the first member of An Garda Síochána to be killed in the line of duty as a consequence of The Troubles.

While details of the study are yet to be revealed, it is expected to shed light on the under-reporting of stress and strain because many gardaí fear reporting would make them look weak in a job where there is a perception they always have to remain strong.

Recent GRA conferences have primarily focused on pay restoration, but with this achieved, gardaí are now more concerned with health and safety issues and what they see as equipment deficiencies.

The conference will hear concerns about the capabilities of ageing anti-stab/ballistic vests.

The GRA, which represents nearly 11,000 frontline gardaí, wants independent tests carried out on all such equipment, which was issued in 2008, amid fears that it may not protect the wearer as effectively as when it was new.

The association also wants such equipment withdrawn from use when it reaches the manufacturer’s estimated lifetime limit.

The GRA will also demand that body cameras are issued to all frontline members of the force, as is the case in many other developed countries.

It will argue officers are often on their own when assaulted and those responsible and their friends regularly make up allegations against the injured garda.

Bodycams would act as a deterrent and their footage could also be used as evidence in a court case.

The GRA says it welcomes an increase in armed support units, but wants them rolled out in a wider geographical area rather than concentrated in the bigger urban centres.

In addition, the representative association wants a ban on gardaí going out on their own in district patrol cars because this presents health and safety risks.

Delegates will also hear calls for all new additions to the garda fleet to have bluetooth/radio equipment retained in them.

Currently it is policy to remove them.

Concerns have also been expressed that some patrol cars aren’t ‘fit for purpose’ and delegates will call for expert examination of them.

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