Numbers of soldiers should rise in line with numbers of gardaí

On Nov 21, the Garda Commissioner told the Oireachtas Justice Committee that there are 13,500 members in the force.

The level of staffing is at its highest since the foundation of the State. The number of Gardaí has increased by about 2,700 since 1986.

With the growth of our population, the ratio of Gardaí to citizens over the last 26 years has been constant at about three per 1,000 people.

On Nov 23, the 4th Infantry Battalion in Cork stood down, the latest in a line of barracks closures. There are now about 8,500 full-time soldiers in the army. That is a decrease of 6,700 soldiers from an all-time high in 1986, when we had 4.3 soldiers per 1,000 people. We now have 1.9 soldiers per 1,000.

There has been a decrease of about 4,000 in the combined forces since the mid-1980s. One of the functions of the army is to aid the civil power, when requested. If we had maintained the strength of the army, we might not have had to recruit so many new gardaí. A weakened army could lead to a militarised police force. We do not want to revive the historical model of the RIC.

Was it a mistake to downsize the army in the ongoing campaign against organised crime?

We should expect more joined-up thinking from the Government, now that justice and defence form part of the same department.

Michael Mernagh


Co Cork

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