McEntee: No suggestion off the table on recruitment and retention of gardaí

The Minister for Justice said the government would tackle issues around crime in Dublin “head on”

Helen McEntee described an attack on a US tourist in Dublin this week as vicious. Picture: Fergal Phillips

Helen McEntee has said that no suggestion is off the table when it comes to the recruitment and retention of gardaí. The Minister for Justice also condemned what she called a “vicious” unprovoked attack on a US tourist in Dublin.

She said that the government’s approach would include continuing to recruit gardaí, updating equipment and vehicles for the organisation, investing in community partnerships and investing in young people, which she said would take time to implement.

“I do believe we live in a safe city here, but there will always be problems and of course it is my intention that we address those problems head on,” McEntee said.

Public expenditure minister Paschal Donohoe, who appeared at a press conference at Store Street Garda Station alongside McEntee, said he was saddened by the attack on the tourist.

While recognising the “difficulties, challenges” and concerns raised, the Dublin Central TD said that the city centre was “safe, vibrant and diverse”.

Local politicians have warned that parts of the capital are unsafe in the wake of the attack on the US national that has left him seriously injured and receiving treatment in hospital.

The assault comes weeks after a young Ukrainian actor needed stitches after being attacked near the Abbey Theatre, where he was performing in a Kyiv production of Brian Friel’s Translations.

A TD has also claimed that parts of Dublin’s inner city have “elements of lawlessness” to them, while the Lord Mayor of Dublin said that more gardaí on the streets would limit the ability for unprovoked attacks to be carried out.

Public representatives have warned that a lack of a police presence has resulted in open drug taking and dealing on some side streets of Dublin, as well as an increased threat of random assaults.

“There is an anti-social behaviour problem in the inner city,” said Daithi de Roiste, the city’s mayor. “The guards themselves, they do what they can to the very best of their ability, with the resources that they have. But it’s clear we have an issue and it needs to be resourced properly and that comes from a departmental level.”

Responding to the Minister for Justice’s statement on Thursday that there will be 450 Garda recruits in training by the end of July and that 420 foot and bike patrols have been launched from the new O’Connell Street Garda Station since it opened, de Roiste asked what net increase those figures represent.

“I’m going to be looking to do a lot of drilling down into those figures,” he said.

Asked whether he feels safe walking through the streets of Dublin, de Roiste said “yes”, but added that “we can do a better job of making people feel safe”.

“High-visibility policing is the key for people to feel safe or the perception to feel safe. What we need to do is have more of An Garda Siochana on our streets engaging communities,” said de Roiste.

“They’re so hard-pressed, they’re bouncing from call to call to call, and we need the passive policing of having guards on the streets and that makes people feel safer. Also, thugs, antisocial-behaviour gangs, whatever which way you want to put it, that are dragging down the name of this great city, they get less freedom to operate with more guards on the streets and with more visibility policing.”

Dublin TD Jim O’Callaghan said the retirement age for gardai should be increased from 60 to 62, and people aged over 35 should be allowed to join the force.

“We have a problem with recruitment,” he told RTE Radio. “In fairness to government, it has provided funding for 1,000 new gardai this year. Last year we provided funding for 800; we were only able to recruit 300. This year, I’m afraid to say we won’t be able to recruit 1,000 new gardai.”

He said there were fewer than 14,000 gardai in Ireland, which was the same level of gardai as there had been 20 years ago.

“I think we need to be clear: we’re always going to have some level of criminality in the inner city of all capital cities and major cities,” said O’Callaghan.

“The problem here is that there is a perception, and it is a reality, that there is a lawlessness in certain parts of the inner city. The only way that is going to be reduced is to have a serious Garda presence there.”