Garda numbers must be boosted to deal with rising demands – Drew Harris

Garda numbers must be boosted to deal with rising demands – Drew Harris
Garda Commissioner Dew Harris (left) greeting members of An Garda Siochana (An Garda Siochana/PA)

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said there needs to be an increase in the number of gardai to deal with rising demands on the force.

Mr Harris said An Garda Síochána is under “considerable strain” because of various demands and responsibilities that have to be met.

He said headcount is an issue the force is constantly assessing.

Launching the new Garda uniform, Mr Harris said recruitment figures set six years ago are not sufficient.

Garda Commissioner Dew Harris (second left), Minister for Justice Helen McEntee (third left) and members of An Garda Siochana, wearing their new uniforms (An Garda Siochana/PA)

He said the force will need more than 15,000 sworn members and over 4,000 staff.

Mr Harris also said that following a recruitment process, member numbers will start to rise over the coming months and into next year.

“I think that when we start to see our numbers actually move out properly to 15,000, then we have a far better idea of just what demands are left,” Mr Harris said.

“Certainly the organisation is under considerable strain in terms of the various demands that we have to meet across a very wide range of responsibilities.

“Against that context, resourcing certainly is an issue that we’re constantly looking at, that we are constantly talking to the Department (of Justice).

“Our resourcing is obviously always under review. But it has to be said over the last number of years the demands placed on An Garda Siochana have continued to grow.

“Our population continues to grow but also the variety of issues that we’re dealing with, not just antisocial behaviour but also crime committed through cyber and fraud and then international crime, where we are involved in the investigation of organised crime groups.

“Plus then ongoing threats to security in this state and huge demands on the organisation.

“I would say there is an argument in respect of our overall resourcing, whether the figures set five, six years ago will be sufficient going into this decade and the latter part of this decade.

Members of An Garda Siochana wearing their new uniforms (An Garda Siochana/PA)

“I don’t think they will and I think we will need more than 15,000 sworn members and more than 4,000 Garda staff.”

Mr Harris also said he is aware of the importance of Garda visibility in towns and cities and ensuring there is a presence in communities.

“We want to make sure that people can feel safe when going about their business here in Ireland and then address those difficult areas where we are were receiving complaints from.”

Meanwhile, Garda members around the country have started wearing their new uniform.

The commissioners said it has been designed as an operational uniform, “for comfort and functionality”, using “really good quality products and are very good quality pieces of equipment”.

The new uniform includes a two-tone soft shell jacket, two-tone waterproof jacket and a blue polo shirt.

It is the first time that elements of the uniform will feature the Garda crest.

“We’re very pleased to deliver it out today and it’s only the third time that we’ve made a substantial change to our uniform in 100 years,” Mr Harris said.

“A good day for us and there’s a great buzz about this place as our members are trying this uniform out.”

He said providing the uniforms for 14,000 members will cost €15m over three years.

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