Exclusive: RURAL Garda stations in Co Donegal will be hit after officers were ordered to report for duty to Letterkenny because there are so few gardai available, Donegal Daily has learned.
The Garda Representative Association has called an emergency meeting later this week to discuss the proposals as the force in Donegal struggles to manage.
One in five gardai have left the Donegal Division in the past five years; a 20 per cent drop in resources with less than 390 officers available for duty.
It is now the most least resourced division in the State.
We understand gardaí in smaller rural and village stations have been told they will have to report for duty for two months to larger stations, including Letterkenny.
The Garda Representative Association refused to name the stations involved, but confirmed anger among its members.
“The GRA has been contacted by a number of our members who have expressed their concerns at plans to utilise members from stations in smaller towns and villages to alleviate manpower shortages in larger urban centres,” said a GRA spokesman.
“It has not been confirmed but periods of 8 weeks absence from member’s stations are understood to be under consideration. Because of operational sensitivities and in the interest of community safety, the association cannot comment on the individual stations affected.
“What we can say is that such moves are symptomatic of the chronic underfunding and lack of resources available to police both urban and rural parts of the County.
“The stations from which members are being utilised are already understaffed with members carrying out the duties of colleagues and supervisors who have not been replaced following retirements and transfers.
“Removing them to make up for shortfalls in other locations will create even more problems and is not addressing the fundamental issue of lack of resources.”
The GRA says the situation in Donegal has never been worse.
“Rural policing has been decimated by the cut-backs imposed by successive years of austerity with what little resources that were available being channelled towards larger stations where demand was considered to be greater,” said the GRA spokesman.
“Now that the cumulative effects of successive years of underfunding and the recruitment ban are jeopardising the ability to police larger towns, rural policing is being further stripped away in an attempt to paper over the cracks. Stations will be operational in name only as members are constantly deployed elsewhere due to shortages.
“It is widely accepted that community based officers are one of the most effective ways of delivering a police service in both urban and rural communities the world over.
“An Garda Siochana has a proud tradition of policing from within communities which is the envy of many other police services, yet the response to funding shortfalls in this country seems to be to dismantle such connections in favour of a “fire brigade” model of policing which is less effective and will prove more costly in the long run.”
The spokesman warned: “Our members are at breaking point. They simply have no more to give. Their productivity, flexibility and goodwill are the threads holding policing together yet they are constantly expected to deliver more.
“It is not sustainable to deliver the same service with reduced staffing levels.
“Members are being expected to take on the workload of another location with the required level of follow up and investigation required for incidents they attend, yet they are still responsible for investigation files and other duties at their own station while absent.
“There is no allowance for this from management who will hold individual members to account through the disciplinary process when inevitably the level of service delivered to the public fails to meet their expectations.
“Yet again frontline members are being expected to make up for the shortfall in funding and are being held accountable for the inevitable drop in standard of service which can be delivered with insufficient resources.”
It’s understood the emergency meeting will take place later this week.
Gardai are forbidden from taking strike action.
However a number of gardai insist they can no longer sit back and watch policing being eroded further in Donegal.
“We care about the communities we serve but we are no longer able to cope,” admitted one.
“We are going to meet to see what we can do – we need the public to support us because at this rate there will be no policing service left in rural or urban areas of this county.”