The Policing Authority has expressed considerable concern at the lack of Garda progress in meeting government targets to recruit 500 civilians by the end of 2017.
At a public meeting, the authority pressed the Garda commissioner and her team on the issue and expressed fear that the objective would not be met.
Nóirín O’Sullivan said she was hugely disappointed at the delays in recruiting the civilians saying there were “huge deficiencies and gaps” in support services that could be filled.
Authority member Bob Collins said it was difficult to avoid the impression that there was a “lack of pace, urgency or conviction” across the organisation.
The civilian head of the Garda Síochána Joe Nugent said that was “a bit harsh” and said he had explained in private session to the authority the reasons, including industrial relations issues.
Authority chair Josephine Feehily agreed the issues had been discussed in private sessions, but said: “We have been having them and having them” and that the authority “keep repeating” to the Garda team to get their requests for staffing in.
Mr Nugent confirmed that 160 gardaí would be replaced by civilians and that these officers would be back on operational duties. Pressed on whether the organisation will meet the 500 target, Mr Nugent said: “I believe the target can be met by the end of the year.”
Ms O’Sullivan reassured Patrick Costello that she believed in her team.
She said cultural reform was her over-riding objective and that she had to “embody it and lead by example”.
She said in challenging unethical behaviours there was sometimes “considerable pushback”.
Mr Costello said 83 recommendations in the Garda Inspectorate’s Changing Policing in Ireland report were not in the Garda Modernisation and Renewal Programme.
Assistant commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin said there were 249 recommendations in that inspectorate report, of which 51 were complete and 97 were active.
Ms O’Sullivan said implementing all the reforms was not a “switch of a button” but “literally like moving a tanker in the ocean”.
Asked was there one recommendation she wanted to see in the next six months, the commissioner said implementing civilianisation.
Valerie Judge likened the commissioner’s task to renovating and extending an old house, where the “weather outside is frightful” and she finds “pyrite in the basement”.
Mr Ó Cualáin told Ms Judge that his “biggest concern” was training. He said training was very expensive and the Training College was under huge demand and was very busy.
Ms O’Sullivan said that ensuring there was sufficient accommodation in Garda stations was an issue.
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