Belfast Telegraph

Garda Commissioner defends overhaul after criticism

The changes have been labelled as the biggest restructuring in the history of An Garda Siochana.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (right) has defended the overhaul (Brian Lawless/PA)
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (right) has defended the overhaul (Brian Lawless/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

The Garda Commissioner has defended the latest overhaul of the force despite criticism from representative groups.

The new regional and divisional headquarters announced on Wednesday are part of a restructuring programme under the new Garda Operating Model, and will see regions reduced from six to four and Garda divisions from 28 to 19.

The changes have been labelled as the biggest restructuring in the history of An Garda Siochana.

Criticism came swiftly on Wednesday evening, when it was revealed by Garda representative bodies that their members found out about the changes to locations and divisions through the media.

I've been characterised as impatient in some quarters and I am a little impatient. Drew Harris

Concerns have also been raised about the reduction of divisions leading to longer response times and reduced police presence, due to larger distances from HQs to certain areas now within their remit.

The deputy general secretary of The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, Antoinette Cunningham, said her colleagues deserved better.

“We learnt of some of the downgrading of divisional headquarters through the media yesterday,” she said on RTE Radio 1.

“That shows scant regard for workers of any association to hear of the downgrading of their workplace not through the consultative process that you’d expect.

“I share the concerns about downgrading, it seems that policing is being pulled into central divisions and we do have concerns about the people in rural Ireland over how their area is going to be policed.”

Speaking on Thursday at the Policing Authority meeting, Drew Harris stood by his plans, which he says will free up more frontline police, create a sense of autonomy for superintendents and improve community policing.

“I’ve been characterised as impatient in some quarters and I am a little impatient,” Mr Harris said.

“The quicker we get about this and get on with it, we’ll be a more efficient service.

“What concerns me there is an inconsistency in one place to the next and I want to deal with that quickly.

“What’s important to me is service delivery, using every euro we get and spending it wisely.”

Day to day, Mr Harris says the public can be assured there will be more community policing in their areas, and more frontline gardai in general when the changes are implemented.

“Within each division they will have two community engagement superintendents, of sufficient rank who can make decisions, who can actually do something, and when they make a promise they can deliver on it,” he added.

“The Detective Superintendent in each division will be a specialist in investigation in crime, and by doing that, we’ve put a conduit in place who can take charge of more serious investigations and ensure consistency of approach when it comes to investigation of serious crime, particularly around criminal gangs and feuds.

“All of these things we want to upscale our ability to take on, and have a more professional approach.”

The force says a wide range of operational factors were considered when deciding where the new regional and divisional headquarters should be based.

These factors included: population, geography, projected growth, crime trends and workload across a range of work streams.

The divisional headquarters will be based in Galway, Castlebar, Letterkenny, Drogheda, Mullingar, Portlaoise, Wexford, Waterford, Anglesea St (Cork), Macroom, Tralee, Henry St (Limerick) and Ennis.

Losing their divisional HQ status are Monaghan, Roscommon, and Sligo towns respectively, as well as Bray, Fermoy, Kilkenny, Naas, Navan and Thurles.

PA

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