Chief Superintendent David Sheahan, who for the past seven years has led the fight against gangs, welcomed the largest number of newly qualified officers to the city in many years.
Eleven recruits began their first day on the beat at Henry Street Garda Station yesterday.
The new gardaí will each be assigned a tutor garda and a sergeant, who will oversee their development.
“I’m thrilled. To be honest, it’s very welcome and it’s going to be a great boost to the city, to be able to train this new blood to the same high standard that I’ve been accustomed to in Limerick,” Chief Supt Sheahan said.
The 11 probationer gardaí will help strengthen Garda visibility on the streets, and will be tasked with continuing to build links with disadvantaged communities, which has been key to gardaí prosecuting city gang bosses and their foot soldiers.
“I’ve already told them about the force’s strength in its ability to forge links with the communities in which (these criminals) operate. For me, that is key to the whole ethos of policing, the way we can develop those links. And that’s what I’ll be instilling in our new students,” said Chief Supt Sheahan.
“Anywhere in Limerick is a very fertile place for (Garda recruits’) learning and development and my role is to make sure they get all the learning and development they can get. At the end of the day these are going to be the leaders of the future,” he added.
Despite overseeing a lull of six years without a gang murder in the city, and recent crime statistics showing an almost 100% reduction in gun crime since the height of the city’s gangland feud, Chief Supt Sheahan said the threat posed by gangland criminals remained active.
“It might be a different landscape (for the new recruits), but the reality is the policing issues are still the same, and what we have got to do now is build on some of the recent successes we have had here.”
Sergeant John Flanagan, Henry St, revealed that the arrival of the new recruits would help in the redeployment of some experienced officers in the city to rural communities left isolated by the closure of Garda stations.
Five of the probationers hail from Cork; two from Kerry and Galway, and one each from Tipperary and Clare. Cork probationers Emer O’Sullivan, 27, and Dave Barry, 24, are thrilled to be stationed close to home.
“I can’t wait. There’ll be new experiences. I just want to see as much as I can, and gather as much experience as I can, and I’m sure I’ll see plenty here,” said Garda O’Sullivan.