Garda superintendents told the Oireachtas Justice Committee there simply wasn’t the “spare capacity” to manage the Garda Reserve, which is due to be established in the autumn.
And the country’s chief superintendents said rank-and-file gardaí and middle-ranking officers — who are bitterly opposed to the Garda Reserve — would have to be involved if the voluntary body was going to work.
The two bodies representing rank-and-file gardaí and sergeants and inspectors told the committee they would not discuss the Garda Reserve in detail until they first debated the matter in the Garda Conciliation Council — the force’s internal industrial relations body — which is due to meet today.
The Garda Representative Association and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors said they were “anxious” to come back to the committee after progress made been made at the conciliation council.
This was accepted by the Oireachtas Justice Committee.
But Labour’s justice spokesman Brendan Howlin pointed out that while the committee would have regard to the Conciliation Council the Oireachtas ultimately decided policy.
In its submission, the Association of Garda Superintendents said it supported the Garda Reserve.
But Tony Kinelly, AGS general secretary told the committee: “The present management system is overloaded.”
Supt Kinelly said the 120 hours’ training laid down for trainee garda reserves was “not adequate” to give volunteers sufficient knowledge of their responsibilities and powers.
“They should have very limited powers initially and the granting of powers should be conditional on a performance evaluation,” he said.
He said full-time gardaí had to undergo 62 weeks of intensive training.
The Association of Garda Chief Superintendents said it supported the reserve.
But chairman Michael Murphy said there were a number of concerns that needed to be resolved, such as the intended size of the force and discipline of its members.
He said the State could have “serious problems” from civil actions taken by reservists who are walking home from the station in their uniforms, but off duty, and assaulted.
Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy told the committee his “biggest problem” was getting gardaí on the street talking and relating to people in communities and that the reserve would help redress this.
He said reservists would begin with certain functions — such as monitoring CCTVs, station duties and policing major events — and then given further duties following more training.
He said he had “no problem whatsoever” in allowing probationary gardaí, as opposed to full-time gardaí, supervising reservists.
Justice Minister Michael McDowell told the committee he intended to bring regulations establishing the reserve to Government in mid-July with a recruitment campaign in August and September.