Gardaí say mooted Government taskforce on frontline worker attacks should be expanded

Garda Representative Association says retaining Garda is becoming a problematic issue that must be addressed

Gardaí have welcomed a commitment by Tánaiste Micheál Martin to consider a taskforce that would examine attacks on them, and other frontline workers, while on duty but say it must go further.

Rank-and-file gardaí say resourcing, recruitment and an emerging Defence Forces-style retention problem within the Garda must be examined by any new taskforce.

Mr Martin on Sunday condemned recent attacks on on-duty gardaí, saying the Government would give “pretty strong consideration” to establishing a taskforce to examine assaults on Garda members and other frontline workers, including transport workers.

“We will be bringing in stronger legislation, which will be debated in the house in the coming weeks, in terms of stronger and much stronger sentences, mandatory sentences, for those who attack or harm members of An Garda Síochána,” he said. “We do need to reflect on that. We have to root out any sense that there is any leniency in regard to attacks on An Garda Síochána.”


GRA president Brendan O’Connor said that while those remarks were welcome, there was also concern within the Garda about the reasons more members of the force were deciding to resign in favour of taking up other jobs.

“The issues around the sharp rise in violent attacks on our members, as well as problems with the recruitment and retention of gardaí within the force, have caused deep concern within our rank,” Mr O’Connor said. “The GRA hopes to have full engagement and participation regarding this taskforce and hopes a formal announcement from the Government will be forthcoming.”

Det Damien McCarthy of the GRA said the number of resignations, at 107 last year, had doubled in recent years and represented a new phenomenon that must be curtailed. He believed more of his colleagues were now opting out of policing because of the level of aggression they were meeting on duty and because the demands of the job were growing while resources were depleting.

Any new taskforce should examine the reasons for gardaí resignations, Det McCarthy said. He believed that form of inquiry would uncover all of the issues making policing more dangerous in the Republic and would highlight what additional recourses were needed “so gardaí could do their jobs properly and more safely”.

The Garda and Department of Justice have said 1,000 new Garda members would be recruited this year, pointing out Garda numbers were at record levels when the pandemic halted recruitment in 2020, while spending on the force was also at an all-time high.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has previously stated recruitment targets were aimed at expanding the force to 15,000 sworn members. However, he believed that would probably need to be reviewed if the force was to keep pace with population growth and increased policing demands.

Last week The Irish Times revealed numbers in the Garda had dropped by over 600 since their peak in March, 2020, as recruitment has not kept up with the rate of retirements. On that occasion, members of the force spoke about the increased pressure they believed they were under. They said manpower on the frontline line was depleting, as Garda numbers had fallen overall and more specialist Garda bureaus were created or expanded to deal with specific crime types such as sexual offences, frauds and cyber crimes.

Recruitment to the force was derailed when the pandemic forced the Garda College, Templemore, Co Tipperary, to shut. At the time, Garda numbers had reached a record 14,750. However, numbers had fallen to 14,113 at the end of last month. This year some 149 Garda members must retire on age grounds. An additional 695 members of the force will be eligible to retire on full pension in 2023, as they accrue 30 years service and reach the age of at least 50 years, though all can opt to continue working until they are aged up to 60 years.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times