Frontline gardaí are calling for an increase to the planned rise in garda vehicles this year amid fears the extra vehicles hired during Covid-19 will be soon returned.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA) said the target of 287 new vehicles for 2020 was not enough, particularly given that the extra 210 vehicles hired for Covid-19 policing operations are scheduled to be returned once the emergency measures end.
Justice Minister Helen McEntee last week said that 94 new vehicles were purchased by Gardaí in March at a cost of €2.4 million and fit-out costs of €600,000.
But the GRA has said that this represents just a third of the 287 vehicles scheduled to be purchased this year.
GRA General Secretary Pat Ennis said: “On average, about 250 cars and over 40 other vehicles, such as vans and bikes, are needed to replenish end-of-life vehicles every year. However, for reasons of member safety, more prisoner transport vans are needed and more cars are needed.”
He said the Garda fleet needed to be expanded to “fill gaps” in some districts and to provide greater mobility in rural areas were members “can become perilously isolated in dangerous conditions”.
Mr Ennis said the demands in rural areas are “likely to be compounded” by the new Policing Operational Model – which involves a massive reorganisation and restructuring of divisions – due to the centralisation of resources.
“The hiring of 210 vehicles for policing the Covid-19 crisis has shown that more vehicles in rural areas is safer for gardaí and the public because back-up can arrive quicker during dangerous incidents,” he said.
“The Commissioner has given no indication of when these vehicles will be returned. But now he is unwinding some of the Covid-19 contingency operations, we must assume some will be sent back.
“If this happens, then the GRA would call for the current target of 287 new vehicles due to be bought this year to be increased.”
Ms McEntee said the Garda fleet currently stood at 2,961 vehicles and that €46m was being invested in it between 2016 and 2021.
Gardaí estimate that 289 vehicles will be decommissioned in 2020, but that with purchases the fleet should be around 2,935 by year's end.