Garda superintendents, who are the commanders of local districts and of national units, also say they are “buckling” under an ever- increasing workload, including major reform projects being rolled out this year.
The warnings from the Association of Garda Superintendents (AGS) comes as a report from acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin raises concerns that budgetary constraints will “significantly impact” on both Garda building programmes and modernisation projects this year.
The commissioner’s report also says that the force is already running over its allocated budget, including additional garda overtime to tackle gangland crime, and that “corrective measures” will have to be made.
The annual conference of the AGS is due to be addressed today by deputy commissioner John Twomey (Mr Ó Cualáin is abroad on work duties) and by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.
The association argues that while their numbers have been brought up to the official levels, with 166 superintendents, that this just covered the “day job”, and did not factor in the range of restructuring and reform projects under the Modernisation and Renewal Programme (MRP).
This includes expanding divisional protective services bureaus to four extra divisions this year, the piloting of a divisional policing model, the implementation of the code of ethics, and a new performance assessment system for all gardaí.
The association said that in addition, there are major vacancies at the supervisory and middle-management ranks below them.
They estimate that there are up to 80 vacancies at inspector level and about 300 vacancies at sergeant rank — with resource implications for the running of divisions and national units.
“We have 166 members now, but that is just to allow us do the day job,” association president Noel Cunningham said in advance of today’s conference.
“We have all the modernisation and renewal projects — the likes of the divisional PSUs, court presenters, the divisional policing model, and the code of ethics.”
Mr Cunningham said that while recruitment had restarted, it would take another 12-18 months before numbers recovered to close to what they were before the recession and the moratorium on hiring.
He said Brexit was going to be a major issue in the coming years: “Brexit will be a massive draw on resources back to the border and this will impact the divisions and also the National Support Services [national crime units] and Crime and Security [security services].”
The AGS conference comes in the wake of the sudden and tragic death of one of its members, Detective Supt Colm Fox last February.
Meanwhile, the commissioner’s March report to the Policing Authority said that “budgetary constraints in 2018 will significantly impact” on delivering both the Capital Building Programme and the Modernisation and Renewal Programme.
The report said capital projects at various stages of work include developments at Longford Garda Station and Donegal Town Garda Station, a new immigration facility and replacement Garda station at Dublin Airport, and new stations at Glanmire, Co Cork, and Bailieboro, Co Cavan.
The report shows the force is €4.7m above its planned spend of €247.8m at the end of February. It said expenditure on overtime for the year to date was €17.5m — €1.8m in excess of budget.
The report said this excess was “driven by a number of significant events” which required extra policing.
It added: “Budget holders are actively implementing a range of corrective measures to ensure that expenditure is brought into profile over the coming months.”