Aontú is calling on all political parties to support the new Bill submitted to the Dáil by the party leader Peadar Tóibín, the Bill if enacted would provide for a minimum custodial sentence for those who physically assault a Garda or Health and Emergency Service worker.
The Bill is expected to come before the Dáil for 1st stage this week, this come only a week after the shocking news that a traffic garda had part of finger bitten off in a vicious attack in Ballymun and after a man was arrested after a Garda car was torched in Donegal.
In late 2022 a reply to a Parliamentary Question revealed that 2,411 Gardaí have been assaulted while on active duty over the decade.
Aontú PRO for the Midwest, Eric Nelligan said: “It is absolutely not acceptable that hundreds of Gardaí going about their service to the community would be assaulted. This is a terrible reality for both Gardaí and their families. It is no wonder that the number of Gardaí leaving the force is so high, 110 have resigned in the past year with 340 retiring, many early.”
Mr Nelligan added; “Aontú are asking that the Government take steps to protect Gardaí while they are serving our community and supporting our bill is one of them. The Garda force are under-resourced and understaffed according to a Eurostat report, in 2019 Ireland had one of the smallest per capita police forces in the EU at 278 Garda for every 100,000 people.’’
Garda numbers have hardly improved since the dark days of austerity when the force was gutted. Aontú also found out that only 150 Garda trainees were recruited last year for the whole of 2020 yet 450 or so left the force. It can’t help that the Gardaí do not have a full time Minister dedicated to the post at the moment. We wish Helen McEntee well on Maternity Leave. She is entitled to it. But it is completely absurd at a time when Gardaí are under so much pressure and the nation is being rocked by a spiralling crime crisis that Minister McEntee is not being replaced by a full time Minister, this was a decision taken by the leaders of the three government parties’.”
“The Bill, which seeks a minimum custodial sentence for those who physically assault a Garda also aims to provide prison officers, a member of the fire brigade, ambulance personnel and Health service workers with similar protection’’.
‘’Healthcare workers have been subjected to over 5,500 assaults — more than 12 a day — in the last 15 months. Figures released by the HSE show that, as well as dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, healthcare staff also faced 5,672 cases of verbal, physical, or sexual assault in the workplace. We have seen Fire Service personnel attacked with bottle and rocks while they are doing their live save work. These workers put themselves in harm’s way for the protection of other citizens need to be protected with adequate resources and the law,” concluded Mr Nelligan.