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Slow increase in Clare garda numbers alarming, says TD

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AN INCREASE of just six in Garda numbers in Clare, over the past decade, has been described by Deputy Cathal Crowe as “alarming”.
As Garda Commissioner Drew Harris addressed the Joint Policing Committee meeting this week, Deputy Crowe appealed to him to get more Gardai back onto the streets.
The Fianna Fail member was among those to table formal questions to the Commissioner in advance of his visit to Clare.
Both he and JPC chairperson, Councillor John Crowe raised the issue of Garda numbers in the county.
The Meelick TD’s comments followed a response from the Commissioner in which he outlined changes to the size of the police force at national and divisional level.
“There is a truly unique dynamic in Clare, in terms of policing,” Deputy Crowe said.
“We are a rural county wedged between two cities. We have the largest urban centre that is not a city. We have an airport and a number of Direct Provision sites, requiring immigration services. There are many reasons why Clare deserves more Gardai.”
In relation to the modest increase in Garda numbers over the last decade, Deputy Crowe voiced concern.
“I would have expected more than six additional Gardai over ten years. That situation is rather alarming. Some stations cover large areas of rural Clare. We have a situation where the Garda station in Broadford closed six years ago. That has put more pressure on the Garda stations in Killaloe and Ardnacrusha.
“I’m appealing for the freeing up of more Gardai to police streets and get back on the beat. I hope you will reflect on this as you leave Clare, Commissioner.”
Councillor John Crowe said that many social changes in recent years meant more Gardai are needed.
“Small villages have grown into towns,” he said. “The big problem is the increase in the population as the number of Garda representatives on the ground has decreased. I would ask you to look at that, Commissioner.
“I have been on to the Chief Superintendent [Sean Colleran] many times on this issue. With extra members due to come on stream, you might be able to look more closely at this.”
In a presentation to the JPC on the new Garda Operational Model. Commissioner Harris outlined the staffing levels of the new Clare-Tipperary Garda division, which is headquartered in Ennis. The current total of 875 Garda personnel, supplemented by 160 civilian Garda staff, is to rise, he outlined, to a total of around 1,500 personnel.
The Commissioner noted that not all staff would be centralised at the Ennis headquarters. “The Chief Superintendent will make those calls,” he said.
In respect of additional government funding for Garda recruitment, the Commissioner noted that a maximum intake of 800 recruits for any year created a real increase of 450 members, taking account of cessations such as retirement.
“A rising tide lifts all boats,” he said. “The increase will be coming through to all divisions. Clare-Tipperary will get their share of those. We have some other resourcing strains, the Economic Crime and Cyber Crime bureaux need more resources, for example.
“While it may seem that the numbers stay static, I would point out the other areas that we have built up resources.
“In the area of the Protective Services Bureaux, we have 300 engaged in that across the country. Our Armed Response Units are a 24/7 service and that has drawn a lot of personnel. 2022 will be a year of growth.”
Speaking to the media after the JPC meeting, Commissioner Harris said that in addition to new recruits to the force, the use of civilian Garda staff is also ensuring that more warranted members are deployed to frontline duties.
“I would also point to the additional 20 Garda staff that have been appointed to Clare and that has displaced a further 20 Garda, warranted Garda members, out on to the ground,” he said.
“That is part of the strategy, not only the number of Garda members increasing, which is very welcome, but also then Garda staff being employed to displace warranted Garda members into frontline duties, be it community policing or detective duties.
“And overall, we’re a big organisation. As we recruit, there’s always cessations. But by this time next year, December 2022, we’ll be setting out an organisation of 14,600 Garda members. And that’s a really positive thing.
“We asked for 800 [new Gardai] and the government responded in terms of the investment, and that’s very positive. And we’re very grateful for that.”

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