Three Wicklow Garda stations could be in the firing line as proposals submitted by Commissioner Harris to revert to the ‘Westmanstown Roster’ on November 6th have sent reverberations around the Country.
One of many Covid-19 measures introduced during the pandemic was the 12 hour shift whereby Gardaí work 4 x 12 hour shifts followed by four days off. Proposals laid out by Commissioner Drew Harris would see a reversion to pre-covid rosters whereby Gardaí would work 6 x 10 hour shifts followed by 4 days off.
In order to facilitate the revised shift patterns, centralisation of resources would be necessary with proposals discussed to Centralise North East Wicklow Garda coverage. The move would see Enniskerry, Newtownmountkennedy and Greystones Garda stations closing with Bray being the respondent 24/7 station.
Both the Garda Representative Association (GRA) and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) have made public their opinions that Garda members’ work-life balance will be negatively impacted, cost of living increased and family routines affected by the move.
The stretched An Garda Síochána are already in a dilemma as recruitment numbers are in decline and of those who are recruited, it has been reported and acknowledged by the Commissioner that a considerable number of recruits often leave the service soon after joining.
Adding to the recruitment issues, recent negative publicity surrounding Garda diversity & inclusion has included reports of 3 new recruits being sent home due to the presence of tattoos above the collar. The move has been met with considerable backlash from the public citing it as ‘archaic’ and one Irish celebrity going as far as to say ‘1986 called. An embarrassment’.
Meanwhile, we saw a determination earlier this year confirming that regulations providing for a maximum age of 35 for recruitment to An Garda Síochána are discriminatory on the grounds of age.
“We’re well into the third decade of the 21st century, and this is about the modernisation of An Garda Síochána to meet the change in demands of this society.” – Commissioner Drew Harris on last nights RTE One, Prime Time
Following the culling of 139 Garda stations around the country in 2012-2013 as part of the ‘rationalisation programme’, there was widespread condemnation of the move with TD’s, local business owners and members of the public raising concerns at the time. It now seems that the issues raised then are even further compounded, particularly with population numbers increasing in all three jurisdictions up for closure and Garda numbers decreasing simultaneously.
In response to a question on the issue of Morale from Prime Time presenter Sarah McInerney on last nights broadcast, he said: “I don’t find that morale is on the floor. Yes, there are things they would like to see changed. Yes, as an organisation, we want to do things better with them.”
At present, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris appears to be staunch in his resolve to introduce reforms that have been in the pipeline since 2018 and has made very clear to the Nation that he as no intention of stepping aside and will remain in his tenure until the agreed date of 2025.