Belfast Telegraph

Taoiseach calls for more ethnic minorities to join gardai

It comes as some 197 new gardai graduated at the Garda College in Templemore on Friday.

Taioseach Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)
Taioseach Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)

By Cate McCurry, PA

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has called for Commissioner Drew Harris to set an objective to encourage more ethnic minorities to join the gardai.

It comes as some 197 new gardai graduated at the Garda College in Templemore on Friday.

Garda numbers have risen to over 14,300 and is set to reach 15,000 by 2021.

The new graduates will be sent to Dublin, Limerick, Cork and the border area.

Speaking at the graduation ceremony, Mr Varadkar called for greater ethnic diversity in the force.

He added: “Our role models should reflect who we are as a society, and the same is true of our gardai.

“I believe it is the visible presence of gardai on the streets and in our communities that reassures the public and deters crime.

“Today we have over 14,300 gardai on our streets – that’s more than for a very long time – aided by 2,900 garda staff nationwide.

“These numbers are increasing and our ambition is to reach a total workforce of 21,000 by the end of next year. We are on target to do this.”

The ceremony brings to 3,000 the number of new gardai that have attested and been assigned to frontline policing duties since the reopening of the Garda College in 2014.

The new gardai will be sent to areas of high levels of crime around the country.

Welcoming the new recruits, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said:  “All communities will gain, through having more frontline gardai and a more localised policing service with greater decision-making power and expertise in each division.”

Mr Flanagan said the current laws on racism, incitement to hatred and hate crime need to be reviewed.

He said: “The existing legal provision for hate as an aggravating factor in sentencing is not broadly understood in the public.

“The time is right to review our laws and reassess what is necessary and effective to stamp out hate speech and hate crime in Ireland.

“My Department is working as a priority to develop and improve our legislation on both hate speech and hate crime.

“We want to understand people’s experience and ensure that the new laws we will introduce in this field are robust, clearly understood and effective.  And so a public consultation on incitement to hatred is currently being carried out by my Department.

“We are also close to finalising research on the effectiveness of the different legislative approaches to tackling hate crime in other countries — to learn from best practice.

While Cork city will see 32 new recruits over the next month, the city will then lose 24 of these officers in the new year when they are moved to different stations in the Southern division.

Limerick will also see an extra 32 officers, however it will only keep four of the new recruits with the rest moved to Kildare, Longford, Carlow and Tipperary.

In his speech, Mr Harris said it is essential that gardai take on the issues that blight communities, including street level drug dealing.

He said: “This is not just a criminal act, but a quality of life issue for communities, particularly when it takes place in public.

“Not only that, but it provides profits for major drugs gangs and enslaves people to drug addiction, which in turn can lead them to a life of crime to feed their habit and even death.

“We need to break this cycle and do it early. We will do this not only by concentrating on traffickers and dealers but also with the community, by a concentration on community policing and a localised policing service.

“Policing is not an easy choice, there is no doubt that being a member of An Garda Siochana will test you mentally and physically, it will expose you to difficult situations, it will require diligence, commitment and courage.”

Of the 197 new recruits, 14 were born outside of the State, including Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, America, Poland and the United Arab Emirates.

Some 34% of the new garda are women. The percentage of women in the gardai has risen from 18.5% in 2006 to 28% today and is now above the European average.

PA

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