Tuesday, 10 June 2014
I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I know he is a busy man these days.
I tabled this Adjournment because a number of people, who are members of An Garda Síochána Reserve, applied to join An Garda Síochána when the recent recruitment drive took place. Thousands of people applied to join An Garda Síochána but only a couple of hundred, at a maximum, will be successful. People who have served in the Garda Reserve did not even get called for an interview. They felt a little let down, particularly given the fact that a number of them have served in the Garda Reserve since day one. It is reasonable to expect that somebody who has served in the Garda Reserve for a minimum of two years or 24 months and has a clean record, good references and is well regarded should have got called for an interview. That would have been fair and proper, particularly given the fact that they had given up two years of their time, on a voluntary basis, to serve in the reserve. It they have done that and shown themselves to be good competent citizens, and they are recommended, then they should have automatically been included for interview for An Garda Síochána when the recruitment process came around.
I know that nothing can be done about the current recruitment drive at this stage. With all things being equal, it is not unreasonable to promote the idea that somebody with a minimum specified period in the Garda Reserve, proper references and so on, are afforded an opportunity - out of common courtesy if for no other reason - to reach the interview stage and be interviewed.
I am certainly not advocating that they should have a direct VIP pass into the Garda Síochána but it is more than reasonable that they should be afforded the opportunity of an interview.
I thank the Senator for raising the issue. Again, I am responding on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality.
In terms of the current recruitment competition, any member of the Garda Reserve was entitled to apply for a position for the full-time service, provided they met the statutory requirements. I can advise Senators that, furthermore, the admission and appointment regulations provide that, as part of the competitive selection process organised by the Public Appointments Service for full-time membership of An Garda Síochána, "due recognition to any satisfactory service by the person as a reserve member" shall be given to such candidates, This provision was introduced in order to acknowledge the beneficial experience and skills gained by a reserve member and to allow them, at assessments and at interview, the opportunity to highlight that experience and skill.
In February 2008 the Garda Commissioner established a group to review training and development for Garda and civilian staff in the Garda Síochána. The report of the review group was published in May 2009 and the contents were noted by the then Government. The objective of the review group was to make recommendations to improve and reinvigorate Garda training in line with best practice in order to meet the new challenges of a changing society. One of the key recommendations identified by the group was that the student-probationer training programme should be radically restructured. The course for Garda trainees is a high level BA course, which necessitates a certain academic capability. The revised training programme stemming from the recommendations of the review group was devised in order to better prepare recruits for the modern policing environment. The main differences between the new and the previous programme is that the new programme carries a greater emphasis on operational policing and focuses on real life scenarios which in turn prepare students for the policing challenges they will face. The new programme will also instil a lifelong learning philosophy for members of the Garda Síochána, with a suite of mandatory and elective courses made available.
I will now outline the stages of the process. The interview stage allows reserve candidates to demonstrate their experience, having a deeper understanding of the work involved as a fully-fledged member. By virtue of their exposure to work in the Garda Síochána, they are in a position to perform well at the structured competency based interview and offer highly relevant examples of how-they demonstrated the key competencies required. Interview boards have been briefed in the work of the reserve and their experience in this context.
It is important that all persons wishing to join the full-time force undergo the same competitive selection and recruitment process. In doing so the integrity of the process is maintained. However, the mechanisms mentioned give the reserve members the opportunity to demonstrate their on-the-job learning acquired as members of the reserve. This allows them some advantage in the recruitment process.
I can advise Senators that there are currently 1,192 attested reserve gardaí with a further 89 at various stages of training. To date, 40 reserve members have become full Garda members, and we will, no doubt, see more joining the ranks from this recruitment competition. Garda reserve members make a real and tangible contribution to policing right across the country and we are all fully supportive of its continued development. In this regard, recruitment to the reserve and training of new reserve members is ongoing.
The Minister would like to assure the Senator that the Government is and will continue to be, fully committed to the Garda Reserve. The Minister would also encourage reserve members to apply for the full-time force if they are interested in and committed to being a full-time member. The assessment process will ensure that those who are successful have the capability both to pass the BA course in Applied Policing, as well as the ability to carry out the important functions of a full-time member.
I thank the Minister of State for his response in which there are many positive aspects. All things being equal, there should be a slight discrimination in favour, if I may go that far, of a person who has had a period of unblemished service within the Garda Reserve.