Europe

Garda chief unveils plans to put more officers on frontline

Drew Harris, the Garda Commissioner
Image caption Garda Commissioner Drew Harris announced the plans on Thursday

The head of An Garda Síochána (Irish police) has unveiled plans to put almost 1,800 more officers on the frontline.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris plans to reduce the number of garda divisions from six to four and the number of regions from 28 to 19.

The former PSNI deputy chief constable took over almost a year ago.

His appointment came after a series of policing controversies south of the border.

His proposals have been described as radical, with 19 autonomous police services looking after local community needs.

It is part of the new Operating Model for An Garda Síochána.

'Ill-advised'

The general secretary of the Garda Representative Association (GRA), which represents rank and file officers, said he had met Mr Harris about the plan on Wednesday.

Pat Ennis said he was assured "the plan was not necessarily the last word on the issue" and other views would be considered.

But the Association of Garda Superintendents (AGS) has described the some of the proposals, which could result in fewer superintendents, as "ill-advised".

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Supt Noel Cunningham said the new model would require more consultation and that he was concerned about a reduction in the number of superintendents.

Speaking at a news conference about the proposals, Commissioner Harris said relations between the Garda Síochána and the PSNI and UK police forces were very good.

But he added that as a result of Brexit UK policing will lose access to some of what is available in the EU criminal justice system.

He said that no matter what happens as a result of the UK leaving the EU, Irish police and the PSNI will continue to co-operate in the fight against dissident and paramilitary crime.

The Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan welcomed the announcement.

In a statement he said it would "reduce bureaucracy" and "deliver an improved, more consistent, highly visible policing service in communities".

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