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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says he is ‘appalled’ by level of violence gardai face

The Fine Gael leader said he wanted more gardaí recruited and more laws to help them do their jobs

Hugh O’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he is “appalled” by the violence levelled at gardaí and pledged the Government will do everything it can to support the force.

Mr Varadkar has also revealed that he has told Simon Harris to give his “full and equal attention” to the role of Justice Minister for the six months he is replacing Helen McEntee who is on maternity leave.

Mr Varadkar said that in assigning the Justice portfolio to Mr Harris he is “really asking him to give that equal priority to his job” as Higher Education Minister.

“That is not a caretaker role, I need him to give it his full attention and equal attention as he will for his other ministry and I know he will do that,” Mr Varadkar said at a pre-Christmas briefing for political journalists.

The Fine Gael leader said that he had also assured Garda Commissioner Drew Harris of the Government’s full support at a recent meeting.

“We did discuss garda recruitment and what he said was quite reassuring in many ways, that recruitment did slow down a lot during the pandemic for obvious reasons and he’s confident that that can speed up in 2023,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said he wanted more gardaí recruited and more laws to help gardaí do their jobs in 2023, including long-awaited legislation on body-worn cameras.

“We have a budget, I think, for about 1,000 recruits in 2023 and that doesn’t mean 1,000 extra gardaí, of course, because you have to take account for retirements but it will mean more gardaí,” he said.

“And there is a budget for increased garda staff as well, so I’m very keen to assist the Minister for Justice and the Commissioner in making sure that we meet those written targets for the next year.

“That means more gardaí available to keep our communities safe and strong, and also the provision of garda staff frees up uniformed gardaí as well.

“We’ll have the new Garda station on O’Connell Street of course, in probably March or April of next year and that will mean a greater, more permanent presence in that part of the city which I think will be very welcome.

“We’ll also have the new legislation on the police and community safety which, I think, is going to be incredibly important – and then in terms of protecting gardaí, I’m very keen to have that legislation through on body-worn cameras because that can obviously help in terms of the prosecution of people who have committed crimes but also it can enhance the safety of gardaí.

“I’ve been appalled to see the level of aggression and violence against members of the gardaí in recent times.

“I don’t know whether it’s gotten worse or not but it’s bad and we want to do everything we can to support them.”

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