ARRIVAL Commissioner Drew Harris pictured at Breaffy House Resort on Friday after his arrival for the JPC meeting, from left: Chief Supt Pat Diskin; Cllr Al McDonnell, Chairperson of the JPC and Peter Hynes, CE, Mayo County Council.
Commissioner in Castlebar to meet Mayo JPC
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris insists that his structural changes of An Garda Síochána will see more gardaí on the frontline in Mayo.
Among the plans under Harris’s changes is for the Mayo Garda Division to be merged with the existing Roscommon/Longford Division. Wholesale changes of garda management are also central to the plans.
Commissioner Harris was speaking in Breaffy House Hotel on Friday where he addressed a meeting of the Mayo Joint-Policing Committee (JPC) meeting to discuss the plans.
Answering questions from local media afterwards, Commissioner Harris said there will be more frontline gardaí in Mayo as a result of his plans.
“The organisation is increasing in size and a rising tide will lift all boats. Each of the divisions is being enhanced in the numbers of gardaí they have but also gardaí being freed up from administrative duties so they can undertake front line duty be it patrol or detective type duties,” he said.
The plans will also see less superintendents but more inspectors and sergeants. At the September meeting of the JPC it was revealed Mayo/Roscommon/Longford will have one chief superintendent and four superintendents. Currently Mayo alone has one chief superintendent and five superintendents.
However, Commissioner Harris said this would be offset by appointing more inspectors and sergeants, along with taking many administrative responsibilities from superintendents.
“Superintendents being freed up from administrative functions so they can do more police work and additionally there will be more inspectors and more sergeants so there will be more supervision and management of the policing response to local needs. There will be fewer superintendents but we are making an investment in both inspectors and sergeants and also frontline gardaí so overall there is an expansion of the police service that we are providing,” he said.
He told the JPC what he is doing is ‘pretty complex’ as some of garda procedures are ‘deep seated’.
“We will deliver a community based policing service based on local needs and we want to enhance national and regional supports,” he said. He added that community engagement teams will be a central tenet of the plans.
He said there will be more frontline gardaí due to new gardaí coming in and other gardaí freed from administrative work with the hiring of civilians.
Community superintendents have already been rolled out in Mayo, as it was one of the pilot divisions for the plans.
He confirmed the divisional headquarters will be in Castlebar. The regional headquarters for the north west will be in Galway, under the management of Assistant Commissioner Barry O’Brien.
Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary expressed his doubt about the plans, saying the gardaí could be ‘another HSE’.
“I’m afraid I’m not convinced by what I’ve heard here today that garda servies won’t be diminished,” he said.
Erris-based Senator Rose Conway Walsh (Sinn Féin) expressed concern about the size of the new division.
“Have you enough resources to do what you need? It takes me three hours to get from Longford. If there is a demand in Longford for more services does that mean less services in Blacksod?”
Chief Superintendent for Mayo Pat Diskin said redeployment of gardaí to rural areas has commenced in Ballycroy, Newport and Balla, and he gave his full backing to Harris’s proposals.
“Your plan will work. I assure you it will work. This is the way forward, I’ve no doubt about it,” he said.
Commissioner Harris said he anticipates the Mayo/Roscommon/Longford division will start to roll out in the third quarter of 2020 but added ‘we will provide further timeline clarity as soon as it is available to us’.