Limerick Garda Division facing morale crisis

Former Garda Representative Association President Frank Thornton.

MORALE in the Limerick Garda Division has nosedived as a Limerick-based Garda faces potential dismissal for activating emergency blue lights in a patrol car after a stolen car drove past them, according to the Garda Representative Association (GRA).

Delegates at the association’s annual conference in Mayo that the investigation involving the unidentified Garda showed the level of bureaucracy faced by members and highlighted what the organisation believes is a major lack of resources.

As the Garda in question was only qualified to competency based driving (CBD) level one, he is now facing a board of inquiry for his actions, according to media reports.

Only Gardaí qualified as CBD level two drivers can use the emergency lights and sirens, and the Garda inquiry board has the power to recommended various penalties, including dismissal.

Outgoing GRA President and Limerick Garda Frank Thornton said the matter also highlighted the lack of fully qualified Garda drivers to respond to emergencies.

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The GRA claims that the Garda activated the emergency lights to alert the public to the danger and turned the patrol car around to see where the stolen car was going, but they did not give chase.

Mr Thornton also complained that not enough was being done to protect frontline Gardaí.

In a stinging criticism of the Department of Justice, he said that the level of rights, entitlements and fair working conditions for Gardaí, including their welfare and wellbeing, has not always been what we expect and deserve from the Department.

“It is an understatement to say morale is very low amongst the members were represent,” he added.

Last week Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said that a response to a recent Garda recruitment campaign was beyond his wildest dreams, however Mr Thornton said the force was haemorrhaging experienced Gardaí before their retirement age, and they could not be replaced overnight.

“A major challenge for Gardaí is the continued rise in vicious attacks and assaults on our membership. We have seen a truly shocking annual rise of almost 35 per cent over the past five years, just under 2,000 assaults causing injury to our members reported between 2020 and 2022 alone.”

“This has led to 175 gardaí being unavailable for work through work-related injuries every month.”

He called on Justice Minister Helen McEntee and the Garda Commissioner to do more to provide support for members’ wellbeing and said that “behind each of these statistics is an ordinary citizen doing an extraordinary job, and the State is failing in its duty of care”.

Minister McEntee told delegates she was proud of the “wonderful men and women” working in the force and pledged “to support you in every single way that I possibly can”.

Commissioner Harris acknowledged the job of being a Garda can take its toll on members as well as their loved ones.

“We have to recognise that we did not always have a comprehensive support system in place for members of An Garda Síochána, but we are improving”, he said.