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Lack of gardaí undermining public’s safety

The former general secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors has called for An Garda Síochána to reassess its model of policing.

Antoinette Cunningham said a lack of gardaí across the country was undermining the public’s safety in both urban and rural areas.

“I’m just not convinced the current model that the gardaí have is the right model of policing for this country,” she said.

“At the end of February there were 13,930 members of An Garda Síochána, that’s probably lower than it has been for some considerable years and I think everyone would agree there is a shortage of gardaí right across the country,” she added.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, Ms Cunningham said the only sustainable way to adequately police Dublin city was through a greater garda presence in the capital.

“That’s what gives people confidence, that their city is safe when they see uniformed gardaí. That’s just not in Dublin, that’s right across the country. People in small towns, rural areas especially, don’t feel they see enough presence of uniformed gardaí.

“That’s why I’m not convinced the current model the gardaí have is the right model of policing for this country,” Ms Cunningham said.

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She explained gardaí are currently concentrated in urban areas and then police outward to rural areas in what she described as a “call and answering system”.

“I don’t think one model of policing will fit city and country. I think rural Ireland needs a community based policing presence all the time. People feel safer when they think their community is police by gardaí who are nearby,” Ms Cunningham said.

Ms Cunningham also said she understands the frustrations of rank-and-file gardaí in the GRA who voted no confidence in Garda Commissioner Drew Harris

However, she outlined that she always maintained a positive working relationship with him and found Mr Harris was “very accessible” to the AGSI.

“If I put up an evidence-based, rational argument about something that was needed for the members I was representing he would change his mind. He was very open and fair and professional,” Ms Cunningham said.

Her comments come as she recently retired from An Garda Síochána and the AGSI.

Ms Cunningham had been a member of An Garda Síochána for 33 years and worked for ten years as a training sergeant at the Garda College in Templemore.

In 2018, she made Irish policing history by becoming the first-full time female official in a garda representative organisation.

She was also the first woman to serve at every executive level of the association.

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