Thursday the 16th of June, has been marked as a sad day in the history of Templemore town due to the fact that the Garda Training College situated there, now sits empty of recruits. Since 1964 countless Garda recruits have passed through the gates of the Garda Training College but Thursday saw the last intake of 126 students graduate and move on from the College.
It is now believed that there will be no new recruits for at least two years, meaning that there will be no new Gardaí for three and a half years. This is a huge disappointment and discouragement for the whole community, it difficult to comprehend just how many people are affected by this. From shop owners and business in the town, to those seeking to enter the profession and those already in the profession, this will have a knock on effect across the board.
I have called on the Government to take urgent action on tacking this issue. To this point the Government has simply said that the situation will be reviewed at the end of the year but has given no concrete promises.
Last week Minister Shatter stated that he could not guarantee that the Government would have the funding to take on additional recruits in 2012. Later he promised that the moratorium on hiring recruits is only temporary and that additional recruits will be taken on in 18 months. We must ask the Government which of these statements is true? The reality is that we do not know who, or what, to believe.
Prior to the General Election Fine Gael and Labour made sweeping promises about the future of An Garda Siochána, promising increased recruits and training. Labour for example in its Manifesto announced that they would have “more Gardaí on patrol in local communities”. Both parties were vocal in criticizing the previous reduction in Garda numbers, in fact the past administration were vilified for the reduced numbers of recruits they had taken on. Yet we now see the current government barrel on obliviously leaving a trail of broken promises in its wake. This was dishonest to the people of Templemore and dishonest to the electorate.
Adding salt to the wound Minister Shatter stated last week that the Garda numbers had to be cut to meet with the requirements on the EU/IMF deal, proving indeed that the promises made at election time were little more than populist rhetoric to win over votes.
While I understand and appreciate the difficult financial constrains being placed on the Government, it is my belief that policing is not something that can be shirked upon. A recession does not damage criminality, rather it grows exponentially and continually adapts. Our Gardaí are doing an incredible job in the face of this but they need support and they need new blood. Back in April I highlighted this as a growing problem within the force. Given the fact that serious cut backs and taxes have been introduced and given the fear that more is to come, many of our more experienced members of the force are deciding to leave for financial reasons. This is depriving the force of a huge source of knowledge, skills and expertise. This knowledge depletion is a massive loss to An Garda Siochána and is exacerbated by the lack of young blood coming into the force and rising up the ranks.
The closing of the doors of Templemore Training College is a particularly hard blow to the businesses and traders in Templemore Town who have, for so long, relied upon and been aided by the constant presence of young recruits in the town. During these difficult times the presence of such recruits made all the difference in keeping the doors open. It is my understanding that the college will still be used for ongoing training this may not be enough to sustain many businesses. In addition we must question what will become of the support staff that has been loyal to the Garda College for many years. It is unclear whether the up-skilling training going on in the College will sustain the jobs of caretakers, cleaners, kitchen staff, administrators etc. This will cost the local economy millions of euro.
I am therefore adding my voice in support of the Garda Representative Association and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, both of whom have been vocal in their criticism of this decision. I am calling on the Government to urgently review this decision. While this decision may harvest some saving at present we must offset these against the growing cost of crime to society.