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Increase in assaults on gardaí and politicians, says GRA

The Garda Representative Association has said the far-right has become emboldened and there has been an increase in assaults on gardaí, politicians and others online and in person.

The GRA, which represents over 11,000 garda members, said that gardaí in urban areas are afraid to pursue fleeing suspects and criminals for fear of being prosecuted and that community gardaí are fearful of using discretion and common sense when helping out vulnerable citizens.

Rank and file gardaí blame Commissioner Drew Harris for this and have accused him of being overzealous in the application of the disciplinary regulations.

They are calling on Minister for Justice Helen McEntee to ensure that gardaí’s discipline regulations are overhauled, modernised, and made fit for purpose.

The theme of this year’s conference is “it’s a job worth protecting” as rank and file gardaí feel they and their work are being undermined by a range of issues.

However, neither Ms McEntee nor Drew Harris will be in Westport to hear these concerns because Mr Harris has not been invited to the annual conference which gets under way in Co Mayo, and as a result, Ms McEntee has refused to attend.

Garda Mark Ferris from Dublin West pointed out that the GRA’s decision not to invite Commissioner Harris was not hostile in motivation but rather a way of drawing attention to their members’ concerns about the direction the force is heading.

GRA President Brendan O’Connor said morale in the force continues to fall with gardaí feeling abandoned and exposed on many fronts and there is an atmosphere of fear and an overwhelming disconnect between frontline gardaí and senior management.

Nearly 50 gardaí have resigned so far this year

Mr O’Connor said garda numbers remain dangerously below strength and issues surrounding recruitment and retention continue to place extra workload, stress and pressure on their members.

Nearly 50 gardaí have resigned so far this year, in addition to the 169 for all of last year.

Mr O’Connor said an escalation of assaults on gardaí and intimidation, online and in-person threats, as well as an emboldened far-right, has continued to make the job even tougher, as highlighted by the November riots in Dublin.

He also claims that not all the attacks have been from external sources, with overzealous oversight and the use of internal discipline as a training tool making many of members second guess their policing methods.

The GRA is particularly critical of the decision to first seek to prosecute, then to discipline an exemplary garda who gave an older person the loan of a bicycle from lost property during the pandemic.

The garda was suspended from duty for over four years and only fully reinstated last month.

Among the 27 motions for debate at the conference is a call on the Garda Commissioner to halt the implementation of the Operating Policing Model which rank and file gardaí say is having a negative effect on the policing service.

Gardaí also want improvements to the uniform including the provision of a woollen hat, a new garda baseball cap and a fleece jacket as the current one is not suitable for cold weather.

They want better protective equipment and are calling for gardaí to be issued with a personal protection helmet as standard and special footwear that provides whole foot protection for the Public Order Unit.

They are calling for the introduction of a long service increment for members with 20 years’ service to encourage retention of members and they want the Minister for Justice to outline how she intends to encourage gardaí with 30 years’ service to remain in the force notwithstanding the fact that they continue to contribute to pension and additional superannuation contribution with no financial gain to them.

Even though Drew Harris will not be there to hear it, the conference is also concerned about the safety of gardaí escorting prisoners and is calling on him to introduce a policy regarding the transport of prisoners in vehicles not fitted with a physical separation from the driver.

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