Gardai increasingly fear that a fatality could occur within their members when they are called out to manage anti-social behaviour amongst large groups of people, according to Antoinette Cunningham, General Secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI).
Ms Cunningham told Today with Claire Byrne, on RTE Radio 1, that attacks on gardai are becoming an almost everyday occurrence.
“At the back of this are individual gardai who receive injuries, some of them life-threatening, and we are fast building in to a society where this is going to become normalised. We do not want to find ourselves in a situation where a member is fatally injured whilst carrying out their duties.”
She said that “almost every day” assaults on gardai are leading members to develop conditions such as PTSD.
However, she indicated in relation to the establishment of a Taskforce there is a need for a more clear understanding of what is hoped to be achieved from it.
“What will be the purpose of it? If it is to do with violence against gardai it is something that we would absolutely look at. I am just not sure what a taskforce would actually achieve.
I think there is a lot of issues in An Garda Siochana. I think we need a greater political response to what is going on.
“And I think we do have continued concerns around recruitment and retention that have been flagged for some time.”
Miss Cunningham said that the Government promised to recruit 800 gardai last year. However, they “achieved just 120.”
“This year they have set out a target to recruit 1,000 gardai. The first cohort of 200 were to start in Templemore yesterday. Sadly, only 136 of the promised 200 started in the Garda college.
We would have to say that recruitment and retention has the potential to become a political failure. Government are setting out targets for recruitment and they are not being achieved. Government need to take hold of that.”
She said that young people look at videos of events such as occurred in Ballyfermot yesterday and decide to choose a different career.
“I think people look at videos like that and they say ‘why would I put myself in a situation like that?’
“We had an 107 resignations last year. Unprecedented in the organisation. I think Government are failing to address the issues with staff associations.
“We haven’t even in An Garda Siochana started the process yet of conducting exit interviews with those who are leaving to find out why the job is no longer attractive to them. That is a failure by Garda management to examine as expeditiously as they can the issues why people are leaving in numbers we have never seen.”
She stressed that the myth that persists that gardai receive “golden pensions” is very frustrating.
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“A guard will not be able to live solely on a garda patient when they retire now.”
Ms Cunningham added that gardai are concerned about “more than just pay and pensions.”
“It is about the conditions that you work under, it is about the mandatory sentencing for people who assault gardai in the course of their duty, it is about a review of the Public Order act which was brought in 1994 to see if there are new offences that need to be introduced by way of legislation such as the filming of gardai, such as the uploading of content.”