by Louise Doyle
THE Chairman of Donegal Joint Policing Committee (JPC) Councillor Gerry McMonagle has said the high number of sick leave absences among gardaí in the county are due to the pressures of the job.
Figures obtained by the Donegal News under the Freedom of Information Act reveal 240 gardaí were absent from work due to sick leave in the first six months of this year.
Malicious injury on duty was among the reasons gardaí in the Donegal Division took sick leave during that time.
Cllr McMonagle said it was “totally unacceptable” that gardaí were injured in the line of duty.
“My first impressions are that it’s an awful lot of gardaí on regular sick leave,” he said.
“We need to drill down to see the cause of this level of sick leave.
“I have no doubt that a lot of sick leave is due to the pressures of the job, especially those garda injured in the course of their duty which is totally unacceptable.”
He said the figures highlight the need for better pay and conditions for gardaí in a bid to recruit and retain garda members.
“It also draws into question the suggestion that rural gardaí could help complement the Dublin garda due to insufficient numbers in the city.
It also begs the question with so many gardaí on sick leave, how are other gardaí coping with the obvious extra responsibilities on them to ensure the public are protected?
“What we need and have been asking for is a robust recruitment campaign and better pay and conditions for gardaí to attract more recruits to An Garda Síochána.”
Sick leave absences fell into three categories of occupational injury/illness arising from duty, critical illness and ordinary illness.
A breakdown of the figures in the Donegal Division for the period from January 1 to June 30, 2023 show occupational injury/illness arising from duty accounted for 13 gardaí taking sick leave.
Within this category eight gardaí were absent from work because of injury on duty (accident), while three gardaí were forced to take sick leave after sustaining malicious injury on duty.
Injury on duty (RTA) and occupational illness arising from duty accounted for two gardaí having to take sick leave between January to June of this year.
The ordinary illness category saw the highest number of garda members absent due to sick leave at 225. Flu/viral accounted for the majority of illness absence in this category (160).
Pregnancy related and surgery/post operation accounted for five and three, respectively, garda absences.
Critical illness accounted for two garda members taking sick leave in the first six months of 2023.
We also asked for a breakdown of duration of the sick leave. According to the FOI, 494 instances of sick leave lasted between 0 to 28 days.
Seventeen instances of sick leave lasted 29 and 92 days, while 15 occurrences of sick leave continued between 93 and 183 days.
The figures come one week after three children and a school care assistant were injured in a knife attack, followed by hours of rioting in Dublin city centre last Thursday evening.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance, Pearse Doherty TD said he believed the shocking incident pointed to a “collapse in policing”, for which Minister for Justice Helen McEntee bears responsibility.
Speaking in the Dáil this week, the Donegal TD said recent events reflected the erosion of An Garda Síochána, including in Donegal, where garda numbers “have fallen under Fine Gael since 2009 and since this government took office”.
He said people not longer feel safe in the capital nor in Donegal.
“On Thursday Dublin was gripped with grief, and my thoughts are with those who were injured at Parnell Square, and we pray for their recovery.
“In the hours that followed Dublin city was gripped by violence, destruction and fear.
“When a mob, without any regard for Dublin and our country, destroyed property, attacked gardaí, intimidated people on the streets.
“Those who took part in Thursday’s carnival of destruction must be subject to the full rigours of the law and pay the price for their disgraceful actions.
“People do not feel safe in Dublin, or indeed in other parts of the State, including Donegal.
“The Minister has been in a state of denial for some time – Thursday’s events make clear that she is now in a state of delusion.”
Deputy Doherty said there are less gardaí in the street and less garda stations in communities.
“This is not restricted to Dublin – in Donegal, there are less stationed Gardaí now than in 2009, in the county overall and in every district.
“Since this Government took office, stationed Gardaí numbers in Donegal have fallen.
“Any attempt to deplete Garda numbers in Donegal or elsewhere to cover this Government’s failure in Dublin is not a solution and is not acceptable.
“Following Thursday’s events, it is clear that we need a change of leadership – the Minister is not the person to lead the Department of Justice.”