INDEPENDENT TD Mattie McGrath has lashed out at Alan Shatter this week after the Minister for Justice told a conference of the Association of Garda Superintendents (AGS) in Kildare that without the savings of €300m that would have been secured under a new Croke Park agreement, he could not expect Cabinet to sanction the funds needed to expand the force.
Templemore Garda College plays a crucial role in the local economy, and in February, Minister Shatter assured a batch of new recruits that while the College would remain at the heart of new Garda training and recruitment, “the question of new recruitment is under active consideration and it is an issue that I will address with my Cabinet colleagues during the course of this year.”
On Wednesday, the Minister told the AGS conference that he felt sorry the Gardaí “felt excluded” from negotiations on the proposals for the extension of the Croke Park Agreement. This meant that bringing a proposal for new recruits to cabinet will “obviously have to be delayed.”
South Tipperary Deputy Mattie McGrath said the Minister “can deny all he likes that this does not amount to a broken promise on Garda numbers. The fact remains however that the necessity for these levels of savings are a direct result of the austerity policies his Party are pursuing, for ends that are serving no other purpose but to demoralise an already bewildered public and the Gardaí who protect them.”
“Under the terms of the bailout, the troika have demanded that numbers must be reduced to at least 13,000 by the end of 2012. While that target was missed, numbers are now down to around 13,400 as members retire and no new recruits are hired. It will take over a year from the time Garda posts are advertised until the new recruits have been trained and are taking up duty. Because of this time factor, the Government must begin recruitment immediately if numbers are to be maintained at 13,000.
“At least the Minister is right when he says that we are now in a different position to when he made his original promise not to fall below 13,000. The problem is however that the position we are now in is on the edge of a cliff in terms of public safety. It is a precarious situation that can only lead to increased levels of criminality and a deepening sense of loss of community safety, a sense already felt by this Minister’s foolhardy policy of closing Garda Stations across the Country,” said Deputy McGrath. “Minister Shatter is denying he is reneging on a promise - and says he is still committed to recruiting for the force. However due to the likelihood of increasingly intractable levels of negotiation which must now occur following the rejection of Croke Park, it is even more uncertain when Garda recruitment can occur”.
“This is like saying ‘I promise to get you water, after the house has burnt down.’ Minister Shatter has to realise that the provision of Gardaí is an absolutely fundamental priority. If he works in Government to substitute this priority, choosing instead to prioritise the availability of money to the Troika, then we are in truly desperate times. What we need urgently is feet on the beat, not cheap political cheats like using the workers who rejected Croke Park to cover his own failures,” concluded Deputy McGrath.