Lack of Respect for Gardai Must be Addressed – Lowry
‘If the Mental Health of our Garda force is not prioritised, every passing year will see our Garda numbers depleted. As it stands at present, there are Gardai reaching retirement who are ticking off the days until they can leave the Force. While at the other end of the age spectrum young Gardai are working for a ridiculously low wage that goes nowhere near compensating them for the work they are expected to carry out’ stated Deputy Michael Lowry while addressing the Garda Functions and Operational Bill in the Dail on Wednesday.
Deputy Lowry said ‘In simple terms this Bill aims to streamline services. It does nothing to increase the number of Gardai, it merely serves to alter how they carry out their work. ‘What is not highlighted in this or any other Bill is the increasing disrespect and abuse that our Gardai are facing from members of the public.
‘We ask a lot from the members of an Garda Síochána. They are required to be present at times of tragedy. We demand that they keep us, our families, our possessions and the place where we live safe. We ask them to work with communities to meet a myriad of needs and requests. We expect them to respond immediately when we fall victim to any form of crime whatsoever.
When they cannot live up to peoples excessive expectations by being instantly available and by solving whatever problem we may have, we publicly berate them. We complain about them. We report them to their superiors. Indeed, in growing numbers, we verbally and, on occasion, physically assault them.
‘Lack of respect for the members of the Gardai is growing. It grew exponentially throughout the Pandemic Lockdowns. Gardai were physically and verbally attacked, they were taunted, they were threatened, they were undermined and they were sometimes ridiculed. Simply for doing their jobs.
‘On the other side of the coin, Gardai are subjected to more internal scrutiny within their workplace than ever before. It stands to reason that their actions must be held accountable. That is not an issue and is, in fact, nothing more than the general public should expect. Gardai as a whole accept this fact.
‘Policing the police is necessary. That is an acknowledged fact that few would dispute. Yet it must support system to ensure fairness. It must protect the mental health and the morale of those who have chosen to dedicate their lives to being members of An Garda Siochana. Gardai perform a difficult public job. The intense scrutiny of their work by oversight bodies adds yet another layer of pressure to the burden.
‘It is no surprise that the combination of all these worries – the constant battering of their worthiness, the need to consistently prove their merit, results in a lowering of Garda morale.
Gardai need a support system that focuses solely on their mental health and well-being and guarantees them the support they need when they need it. Addressing Garda Powers and Garda Functions will be of no value if we do not prioritise the wellbeing of the very people that we expect to implement the law. ‘Our Gardai are a precious resource. They provide a vital service to the public that allows each of us to live with a sense of security that we all to often fail to recognise or appreciate. The health, wellbeing and morale of these invaluable individuals must be protected. ‘Our security lies in their strength.’
Deputy Michael Lowry