It has become more difficult in recent years to be a Garda due to the increase in violence and disrespect shown towards them, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.
Mr Varardkar said the Government wants to introduce the use of body recording cameras by gardaí “very soon”, saying “we’re keen to get that done next year”.
The Tánaiste was responding to Independent TD Michael Lowry during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil on Thursday, who said a full review of An Garda Síochána’s operations must be a priority for the incoming reconfigured Government.
Mr Lowry said over the past 10 years there has been a concentration on putting in place Garda oversight bodies.
“Many gardaí will tell you now that they are under more scrutiny than the criminals,” Mr Lowry said. “Gardaí are swamped with paperwork and uploading data. More and more I encounter gardaí who are unhappy, unfulfilled and disillusioned.”
The Tipperary TD said concerns were mounting about the increasing number of gardaí who have quit the force, including some who are leaving before they have even completed probation.
“When resignations are added to retirements, we have 400 less gardaí now than we had this time last year,” he said.
Mr Lowry also spoke about the need for mental health and psychological supports for members “arising from the trend towards violent disorder and aggression”.
“Up to the end of October this year, €780,000 was spent on providing such support to members and that’s a figure that has exceeded the entire amount that was spent in 2021,” he said.
“The figures show that 480 members were referred for psychiatric or psychological assessment or for some form of mental healthcare in 2021.
“Overall, almost €2.3 million has been required to provide psychological support to members of gardaí and staff who have dealt with traumas of some kind since 2020.”
Mr Varadkar said as of the end of October, there were 14,200 gardaí across the country and that the resignation rate stands at 0.7 per cent.
He said the Government was in the process of reforming oversight of the gardaí to establish a new office of the Police Ombudsman.
“I would hope that reformed office will complete investigations into complaints in a more timely way because it’s absolutely right that gardaí should be held to account but the fact that complaints can take years and years to be investigated is very unfair, and it’s hanging over people and hopefully it’ll be a more speedier operation,” he said.
The Tánaiste said it has always been “a tough job to be a Garda”.
“It’s gotten a lot harder in recent years with the changing complexity of demands, the increase in violence, quite frankly, and an increase in disrespect being shown to An Garda Síochána,” he said.
“One of the things we definitely want to progress very soon is the use of worn body cameras, which can be an important protection to gardaí and I know they’re in favour of that and we’re keen to get that done next year. It does require legislation.”