Trevor Laffan: Even when I was a recruit, the capital gobbled up our gardaí

Resources in the gardaí are still an issue and those of us living outside the Pale will have to make do with the crumbs that fall from the Garda Commissioner’s table, so says Trevor Laffan.
Trevor Laffan: Even when I was a recruit, the capital gobbled up our gardaí

THIN BLUE LINE: Cork has been allocated just 138 garda recruits since 2015, with Dublin taking 1,322

IN The Echo recently, Ann Murphy reported that Cork has been allocated just 138 Garda recruits since the reopening of the Garda college in 2015, compared with 1,322 recruits allocated to Dublin.

Figures supplied in answer to a parliamentary question from Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath showed Cork city received just seven Garda recruits this year, while five were allocated to Cork North. Cork West has not been allocated any this year.

Ten recruits due in Cork earlier this year from the most recent graduation class from the Garda college were re-allocated to help boost numbers in Dublin and Drogheda, because of gangland crime.

It’s not unusual for gardaí to be pulled from one place to fill a gap somewhere else because there just aren’t enough to go around, but you wouldn’t think that if you listened to Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, who said: “This Government has not been found wanting in providing resources to An Garda Síochána.”

Deputy McGrath has addressed this issue previously: “I have been raising concerns about garda numbers for some time. This issue must be addressed as part of a wider initiative to tackle open drug dealing in Cork. Unless the government wakes up to this incredibly serious problem and allocates the resources needed, the situation will continue to spiral out of control.”

We didn’t get here overnight though. Back in 1980, the Fianna Fáil Minister for Justice, Gerry Collins, said that the Government would not be found wanting when it came to getting resources for An Garda Siochana. It’s been repeated many times since, but the problem remains.

I passed out from the Garda Training Centre in Templemore on May 8, 1980. There were 92 of us and, like everyone else in my group, I was hoping for a posting close to home, although most of us knew that was unlikely.

Crime was spiralling out of control in Dublin. Drugs were a major issue and gardaí were getting injured by joyriders and criminals, so there was a clamour for law and order. Dubliners wanted more gardaí on the beat, so my fate was sealed.

I went to Blackrock in Dublin as a red raw member of An Garda Siochana. I had a lot to learn so I didn’t anticipate there would be too much expected of me initially, but when I read one of the Dublin papers the following day, I got a fright.

According to that paper, even though we were the new kids on the block, expectations were high. We were hailed as the new crime- busters, going to save the day.

Those responsible for writing that story obviously had no idea who they were dealing with, because in reality, we were probably just about capable of writing a parking ticket.

The story went: ‘The garda war against city centre crime took a major step forward yesterday with the appointment of 75 new recruits to Dublin, 18 of them to city centre stations. The move follows top-level talks involving-Justice Minister Mr Gerry Collins and the Garda Representative Association, whose members have been the target of joy-riding youths and vandals in the city centre.”

So, 75 of us ended up in the capital, which left 17 for the rest of the country, and when you fast forward to 2019, almost 40 years later, it seems that not a lot has changed.

Some 200 new recruits left the Garda College in Templemore earlier this year and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said that more than three-quarters of the new gardaí were being allocated to stations in parts of the country worst affected by organised crime, with 182 of the 201 garda graduates being sent to Dublin where ongoing criminal feuds continue.

Commissioner Harris said that gangland murders were increasing because of turf wars between organised crime groups and that they were becoming even more vicious, but gardaí were determined to reassure the communities of their ongoing commitment to tackle those gangs in these areas.

The allocation of three quarters of the gardaí graduating to Dublin and Drogheda, areas currently worst affected by organised crime was “very deliberate” .

Good news for some, but not so good for the rest of the country who lost out.

So, the long and the short of it is, I didn’t do a very good job of curtailing the criminal fraternity back in 1980 and it’s become even more lawless and violent since I left.

Dublin has grown since then too, of course, and it seems it still doesn’t have enough resources, despite the promises of Gerry Collins, Charlie Flanagan and all the Justice Ministers in between.

Resources for An Garda Siochana have always been an issue and certain commissioners must take some of the responsibility for that too, because they often claimed to have everything they needed at a time when they clearly didn’t, presumably to avoid falling out of favour with their political masters.

Commissioner Harris, the most recent garda boss, launched a new modernisation programme back in August and he too was assured of the full backing of the Minister for Justice.

Mr Harris must have been delighted at the time to hear that news, but the ink was hardly dry on the launch invitations when the commissioner was told to tighten the purse strings because of the high cost of the Donald Trump/Mike Pence visits. Those security costs came out of the garda budget and made a substantial hole in it.

So, it would seem that resources are still an issue and until such time as that is resolved, those of us who live outside the Pale will have to make do with the crumbs that fall from the Garda Commissioner’s table, and most of the new students in the Garda Training College can continue to prepare for a life around the M50.

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