Garda Commissioner acknowledges discontent within ranks

Garda recruits reflected in water (Cathal McNaughton/PA)
Garda recruits reflected in water (Cathal McNaughton/PA) Garda recruits reflected in water (Cathal McNaughton/PA)

The Garda Commissioner has insisted he does not dodge or deny the concerns around morale with the force.

Drew Harris told an Oireachtas committee he recognised the issues that have been highlighted by associations representing Garda members and has endeavoured to address them.

Giving evidence to the justice committee on Tuesday, Mr Harris also expressed “huge concern” that 646 Garda members have been subjected to violence or assault in the course of their duties so far this year.

He said it was a priority to ensure all personnel were supported and assisted when faced with trauma, crisis or mental health challenges.

Mr Harris has faced criticism from within in his own ranks over his handling of various issues within the organisation this year.

Foremost has been a vexed dispute over his proposals to change the working roster of gardai.

That saw members of one association, the Garda Representative Association (GRA), vote no confidence in the commissioner and threaten to take industrial action.

That action was averted after a breakthrough in negotiations and all sides in the dispute are now back in talks with a view to agreeing on a revised roster plan.

During the commissioner’s appearance before the justice committee, Labour TD Aodhan O Riordain pointed to figures that indicated 116 Garda members had resigned so far this year.

Mr O Riordain said in 2013 there were 26 resignations and 77 in 2018.

He suggested the increase in members quitting the organisation pointed to an issue with morale.

“I’m not avoiding any of these issues in terms of the difficulty of policing,” said Mr Harris in response.

“At the same time I point to people’s sense of belonging with the organisation, their sense of the duty that they feel to the people of Ireland and their recognition of how important their work is.

“So, it’s just not all a negative story.

“But, at the same time, I do recognise the stresses that are on people, the fatigue that they are reporting, stresses and strains around the workload.

“And, actually then, you know, the reported oversight as well, that they feel is intrusive.

“So, we do recognise all of that. I don’t dodge any of that. I don’t deny any of that.

“So it’s been raised, we’ve done our very best to deal with that and continue to work to do so.”