An Garda Síochána will begin a new operating model in May.

Big 'change' for gardaí

Gardaí in Cork will soon commence a new operating model despite having “nowhere near” the number of gardaí upon which it is structured.

The new model, revealed at Monday’s Cork County Joint Policing Committee (JPC), was described by Chief Superintendent Vincent O'Sullivan as the “biggest operational change in An Garda Síochána's 100 year history”.

However, when questioned on the target number of 900 garda personnel stipulated in the his presentation, Chief Superintendent O'Sullivan said it was an “aspirational number” based on a new divisional structure in the county.

“We're not anywhere near 900 at the moment. That includes garda staff, everyone from students up to chief superintendent,” he said.

The new operating model, which goes live on 21 May, will see the current Cork West and Cork North divisions amalgamated into one larger division named Cork County. It will also see Cork’s 7 existing districts be converted into 3 functional areas - Cork County North West, Cork County South West, and Cork County North East.

The divisional headquarters for the new Cork County division are planned to be situated in Macroom, however, gardaí say this does not mean all personnel will be centralised at that location, with superintendents, inspectors, sergeants and their teams to be geographically dispersed throughout the regions and divisions.

This change will align with similar divisional amalgamations across the country as Ireland transitions from having 28 divisions currently to 19 as of 21 May. The current district model has remained largely unchanged since the inception of An Garda Síochána in 1922.

Gardaí hope that by having larger divisions, with more resources and more services available locally, they can provide better local and community policing with more gardaí on the frontline.

Each division will have a 24/7 inspector and at least one crime superintendent, as well as more frontline inspectors and sergeants and community engagement teams responsible for their community policing areas.

Chief Supt O'Sullivan said the views of the public as well as the Irish Government were taken onboard in the development of the new model.

He also said that An Garda Síochána studied the operating models of other international police forces while developing Ireland’s new model.

In his closing statement, Chief Supt O'Sullivan asked for “time and patience” as the new operating model is rolled out.

Responding to the presentation, Fianna Fáil Cllr Joe Carroll was skeptical as to how is going to result in there being more gardaí on the frontline.

“These changes within the gardaí aren't always successful and I find it very hard to understand how there are going to be more visible gardaí on the frontline if our garda force is going to be stretched from Charleville to Castletownbere, I don't know how it's going to work,” he said.