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Martin rejects accusations Government taking 'soft touch' to policing

Tánaiste Micheál Martin has rejected suggestions from Sinn Féin that the Government is taking a “soft touch” to policing.

At Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil, Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty said morale among gardaí was “at an all-time low” and criticised Fine Gael in particular for falling Garda numbers across the State.

He said it remained a “sad state of affairs” that large portions of the Future of Policing report remain unimplemented, adding communities should feel safe in their areas.

“Instead, people are feeling unsafe in their own homes and in their communities, because after 12 years of Fine Gael justice minister after justice minister, the gardaí are in crisis, and the communities are less safe than ever.

Fine Gael’s soft-touch approach to policing has pushed the gardaí to breaking point and ordinary communities are forced to pay the price of Government failure.”

The Sinn Féin finance spokesperson accused Justice Minister Helen McEntee of taking a “hands off” approach to the gardaí, particularly highlighting impending industrial action over rosters.

In response, the Tánaiste pointed out “significant inroads” were being made in dealing with crime in Dublin’s north inner city.

“Some pretty significant numbers of criminals being put behind bars and the breakup of those gangs and many of them having to leave the country. That's not evidence of a soft touch by Government in respect of these criminal gangs, in terms of crime,” Mr Martin said.

Responding to the concerns over potential Garda industrial action, Mr Martin admitted it was causing “considerable unrest and concern” within rank-and-file gardaí.

“In my view, these issues are best resolved within the industrial relations mechanisms and that's where they should be resolved,” Mr Martin said.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) leadership described the meeting as a “complete waste of time”, adding their relationship with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris is “in many ways irreparable”.