Gardai understaffed and under equipped in Meath

By Eoin Ryan

Meath residents spoke of poor response times from Gardai and their lack of resources during a public meeting held in Newgrange Hotel, Navan.

The meeting was organised by Sinn Fein TDs Johnny Guirke and Darren O’Rourke to raise issues regarding the lack of Garda and Garda equipment in County Meath. 

“The main objective of the meeting is to find solutions to the anti-social behaviour occurring across the county, so that people can feel secure walking to the shops and back.” Deputy Johnny Guirke said

“We understand that our gardai are overworked and under-resourced in the county, and we continue to have the lowest Garda numbers per head of population in the State.” 

TD Darren O’Rourke said Ratoath is the largest town in Ireland without its own Garda station “So you have very serious population growth but the resources were never there to match it.”

Residents expressed their frustrations at the slowness to response times regarding calls about anti-social behaviour and criminal activity with crimes often being committed by people after reports to the Gardai were made.

There are only 316 sworn members policing a population of 220,000 in Meath for 2022 according to Garda figures, the smallest number per capita in Ireland. In comparison Louth had 403 members for 139,000 people and Kildare had 437 members for 247,000 people in 2022.

For every one garda in Ireland there are 370 people, while the average in Europe is one police officer for 320 people. In Meath, this is one Garda for every 696 people.

Gardaí are also less equipped than their European counterparts as they lack tasers and still use chain link handcuffs instead of the improved rigid version. We are also only now looking into legislation regarding body cameras on Gardai.

Meath residents have seen a consistent rise in antisocial behaviour with crime rates increasing in most categories, according to the Central Statistics Office. Theft increased by 39% in one year to the end of September 2022 with kidnapping and similar offences growing by 29%.

Other increases include attempts/threats to murder; assaults, harassments and related offences (20%), burglary and related offences (18%) and robbery, extortion and hijacking offences (17%).

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors Deputy General Secretary Ronan Clougher said many Gardaí no longer recommend a career in the force to others due to low morale.

“Traditionally, the Guards would always recommend a career in An Garda Síochána to young people but I think that is changing now,” Ronan Clogher said. “That just reflects the reality and feeling on the ground among the membership at the moment.”

Clogher also said specialised units to tackle specific sections such as domestic violence and cybercrime have pulled Garda out of their stations. 

He said the new Garda Operating Model moved the Garda force from the old district system and centralised resourced which “drags resources, particularly in rural areas, into centralised locations which means sometimes that rural garda stations, particularly one-man garda stations as they are known, are left unmanned at times.”

He said the level of pay and pensions is an issue, but social media and the administrative duties have become big problems. Young recruits are being discouraged by “seeing assaults on Gardai” across social media and that the fact “Gardaí are spending more time on administration duties than actually out on the street policing.”

The influx of Garda resignations has meant one in four stations has seen a drop in staff with 42 stations having no Gardai permanently assigned to them.

“There are simply not enough Gardaí to adequately police some areas, despite the very best efforts of those already working on the frontline,”Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald said. “This creates real worry for people that their communities are not protected from crime.”

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