There has been a 40% drop in the number of gardaí in local drug units in the last eight years — a fall that has continued despite the restarting of recruitment.
Official figures show that the combined strength of the country’s 28 divisional drug units stands at 231 as at the end of last February, compared to 378 in 2010.
The fall has continued despite the ending of the embargo on recruitment in September 2014, with numbers falling steadily from 258 in 2015 to 231 in 2018 (-10%).
The divisional units are separate to the National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (DOCB), the strength of which has remained largely unchanged since the Garda National Drugs Unit and the Organised Crime Bureau merged in 2015.
Its numbers stood at 107 in 2015, rising slightly to 114 in 2017, and dropping marginally to 111 in 2018.
The figures were supplied by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan in reply to a parliamentary question by Fianna Fáil justice spokesman, Jim O’Callaghan.
“The significant decline in the number of gardaí working for divisional drug units is a matter of concern. Unfortunately, Ireland’s drug problem has got significantly worse over the past eight years yet there has been a reduction in the number of gardaí working for divisional drug units,” said Mr O’Callaghan.
He said the fall in numbers since the embargo on recruitment in 2010 has not ended with the kickstarting of recruitment: “There has even been a decline since 2016 which shows that notwithstanding an increase in garda recruitment there are still not enough resources being allocated to divisional drug units.”
He noted the allocation to the DOCB, but said drugs are a country-wide problem that require local drug units to be “properly resourced” to ensure that “local drug problems do not become more widespread and serious”.
The justice minister said 1,800 recruits have been attested to date and the net increase in the last year, including retirements, is 600.
“We are now rebuilding the organisation and providing the Commissioner with the resources he needs to allow him to deploy increasing numbers of gardaí across the organisation, including the divisional drug units.”
Separate figures supplied to Cork South Central Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath show that the strength of the Cork City Division is now 667, compared to 656 in 2007 and 680 in 2011.
Of the 1,800 recruits since September 2014, 48 have been assigned to the city.
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