The Gardaí are facing unprecedented retention issues, with 109 Gardaí resigning in 2022, according to the Garda Representative Association (GRA).
Recent plans to recruit 1000 new Gardaí this year are already 32% behind target, with the organisation reporting that “morale is at an all-time low.”
Speaking to Lunchtime Live, GRA Assistant General Secretary Tara McManus said: “Right now An Garda Síochána is not seen as an attractive career.”
“There are a number of reasons for that, and the first one could be linked to the training allowance that is paid to trainee Gardaí,” she said.
“That works out at about €4.60/hour for 32-week training. So, if you're a person with a family or a mortgage and bills to pay, that's unsustainable.
“We would like people with all sorts of life experiences to apply and that very poor allowance would eliminate a huge cohort of people.”
Attacks on members
Ms McManus said the “media footage” of attacks on members of the Gardaí is a deterrent for potential recruits.
“We've long been protesting about the fact that we don't have a safe working environment, she said.
Ms McManus said this has resulted in “huge issues with retention,” despite yearly recruitment campaigns.
“We lost 109 members in 2022 to resignation, to date we've lost 45 in 2023,” she said.
“Some will quote the cut pay and the cut pension, and that applied to anybody who applied post-2013 – their pension is significantly lower.
“There are other reasons why they’re leaving – poor morale, work-related stress, some of them have quoted bullying, some of them have quoted the fear of discipline.”
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Reality of the job
Ms McManus said the Modernisation and Renewal Programme that was introduced by the Garda Commissioner are “just adding to the workload of guards.”
“A lot of people that I've spoken to would describe themselves as ‘I stopped being an investigator, and I'm now an administrator’ – they find themselves in front of the computer for most of their working time,” she said.
“People that see themselves as part of the community, working with people, helping people when they're at their absolute lowest and they now find that that's actually not the reality.”
Garda McManus said a recent GRA conference’s theme was ‘breaking points.’
“[Gardaí] feel they’re at breaking point and if something is not done to address the retention issues, to address training, lack of resources, overwork … we're going to have a serious policing problem on our hands,” she said.
“Of all the people that I've interviewed, and I interviewed 30, not one of them would recommend a career in An Garda Síochána to a friend.”
Retired Garda Sergeant Christy said the lack of “management input into helping members who are under severe strain” is adding to the crisis.
“We have a GSOC, we have Garda interdisciplinary procedures, we have the new Anti-Corruption Unit, and members on the grounds I'd say feel under siege,” he said.
“It's all about the pen pushers in Garda headquarters and other places that want the stats.
“Given the type of oversight that's been brought into the Garda Síochána and the way Gardaí and the frontline are now being treated, they're under constant scrutiny.
“The fact is, most of the problems are emanating from Garda headquarters and working its way down to the frontline services.”
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