Garda recruitment targets can still be achieved, says justice minister

Simon Harris has insisted the target to recruit additional gardai can still be realised (Niall Carson/PA)
Simon Harris has insisted the target to recruit additional gardai can still be realised (Niall Carson/PA)

The recruitment of 1,000 gardai by the end of 2023 is still possible despite early targets not being met, justice minister Simon Harris has said.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has previously said it was concerned that the target of recruiting 1,000 new gardai by the end of the year would not be achieved.

The GRA said 154 new recruits entered Garda College at Templemore in May – a number it said was short of a the target of 225. The association said the intake in January was 134 against a target of 200.

When asked if it was still possible to meet the 2023 target, Mr Harris told RTE: “I think we still can.”

“We’ve provided funding to Garda Siochana to, as you rightly say, recruit 1,000 additional gardai, we’ve had two classes go in so far, we have three further classes to go in. There are more new recruits have entered Templemore than did in the entirety of last year,” he said.

An independent opinion research poll commission in March showed that just 27% of the public regarded a career in An Garda Siochana as an attractive one for themselves or a member of their family, according to GRA deputy general secretary Ronan Slevin.

Mr Harris said the interest in joining the gardai was still high.

“We have had more than 4,800 people indicate that they wish to become a member of An Garda Siochana. The interest is still high,” he said.

“And this will be the first year since Covid, that Garda numbers will be higher, I believe, at the end of the year than they were at the start.”

Mr Harris also said he was “engaged very intensively” with the GRA.

“Their big request at the time was around this issue of safety for members of An Garda Siochana and very swift legislative action was taken by me where we’re now going to change the law to ensure that anyone who attacks a member of An Garda Siochana or their vehicles will see a maximum sentence increase from seven years to 12 years,” he said.

Also as part of the aim to increase gardai safety and bolster recruitment Mr Harris committed to increasing the number of bodycams available to Garda attending protests.

“But we’ve already begun the commencement of that legislation through the Dail, passed a second stage, the bodycam legislation,” he said.

“I intend to meet further with Government leaders again this week to try and find a landing zone in relation to the whole issue of FRT (facial recognition technology).

“Discussions are going on in Government, so I don’t want to say too much but just for the benefit of listeners, what we’re talking about here is how you could use facial recognition technology in retrospective situations for things like online child abuse, for things like murders to try and help find heinous criminals and find them quicker.”

TDs on the Oireachtas justice committee had previously expressed concern with the use of FRT in relation to privacy and surveillance.