The recently announced reforms to the Garda operating model have been welcomed by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), which says that the Gardaí will be able to devote more officers to rural areas.

Richard Kennedy, the association’s deputy president, called the announcement “very welcome news”, and said that it would ensure that “Gardaí will be able to do the work they were trained for, out and about in rural areas, as opposed to sitting in offices filing paperwork”.

“It is our view in the IFA that the current policing model is not working. We have lobbied consistently for an increased Garda presence in rural areas. The new proposed operating model will result in an additional 1,800 Gardaí working on the front line, in the community,” said Kennedy.

The new model was revealed by the Gardaí yesterday, Thursday, August 22, which announced that it would “increase the number and visibility of front-line Gardaí”.

According to the Garda announcement, the plans will see: more Gardaí to the front-line by the end of 2021; an increased number of community policing teams; larger divisions, providing a wider range of policing services locally; and more localised services based on the needs of the community.

“An Garda Síochána has today announced improvements to its structures, processes, services and governance that will increase the number of front-line Gardaí, deliver a more localised service to communities, and maximise the organisation’s operational impact,” said a statement on the Garda website.

The plan will see a restructuring of the various levels of the force’s organisation, i.e. Garda regions, divisions and districts.

There will be a reduction in administrative structures [and] the introduction of community policing teams dedicated to working with communities to identify and tackle problem crimes in their area.

It is expected that 1,500 officers will be recruited from now to the end of 2021, while an additional 1,000 Garda will be redeployed to the front line in that time frame.

Garda divisions (which roughly correspond to counties, though some counties are combined into one division while larger counties may have more than one division) will be decreased in numbers from 28 to 19, while also covering larger areas and becoming more autonomous.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said that this change, and others, would “deliver a more visible, localised and responsive policing service”.

“These improvements will allow us to increase the number of Gardaí at the front-line and enhance community policing… It will mean Gardaí at all ranks will have more time to engage with local communities and stakeholders to help keep people safe,” the commissioner added.