The price of peace: statistics from An Garda Síochána reveal the risks members of the force must deal with daily.

It is common knowledge that occupational hazards are very much part and parcel of choosing an occupation with An Garda Síochána. The first half of the 2010s it seems however, were particularly dangerous years for members of the force.

Figures released from An Garda Síochána’s Freedom of Information office have revealed the number of injuries sustained by members of the force since 2008. Most notable of these statistics are the number of assaults on gardaí and the number of road accidents, which have taken place.

2008 as shown below reveals that the number of recorded assaults on members of the force had begun to see a decrease from 2009 onwards, only to skyrocket in 2013. The figures continue to elevate to just under 300 attacks on gardaí in 2015. Interestingly however, the number eases in 2016 and has reached 153 so far this year.

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On duty members of the gardaí throughout 2010 to 2016 have been involved in a large number of road traffic related accidents, with figures of injuries sustained by gardaí reaching almost 100 per year. 2009 saw a drop by about 22%, only to increase again by another 30% the year after. The trend eases in 2011 to 84, but rises until 2013 to 128 accidents, a spike of 35% in the space of two years.

This current year, however, the figures for recorded road accidents stand at 61.

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Figures from the garda appropriation accounts of 2016 have shown that the number of garda vehicles damaged over the past eight years have risen substantially. While 2008 saw 482 recorded vehicles damaged in the year, both attributable and not attributable to gardaí, that figure has not once decreased since then.

The number of damaged vehicles peaks in 2015 at 682, the closest figures to that being 667 damaged vehicles in 2011 and 639 2012. There has however been a somewhat significant decrease in these numbers last year with the number of damaged vehicles totalling 602, an easing of 11.8%.

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By Henry Phipps

Irish Navy spent €1.25 million on Mediterranean mission in 2016

The Irish Navy has been operating military missions in the Mediterranean because thousands of refugees have drowned trying to cross to Europe.

The well-documented crisis led to the Irish Navy being deployed on a humanitarian mission but that stance has also changed. Ireland is now a part of Operation Sophia, meaning the Navy will now be authorised to stop people traffickers. Operation Sophia is a part of the EU Common Security and Defence Policy mission.

The operation targets vessels and gangs involved in human trafficking from Libya. Ireland joins Italy, Belgium, France, Germany, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and the United Kingdom on the operation. Sinn Féin were among those opposed to Ireland joining Operation Sophia as they said it would affect Ireland’s neutrality.

2016 was an expensive year for the Irish naval vessels located in the Mediterranean. The total cost to the Defence Forces was €1.25 million in 2016 alone.

 

Ships LE Roisin LE James Joyce LE Samuel Beckett
Fuel €305,231 €186,246.43 €344,602.03
Provisions €36,272.72 €38,413.28 €36,746.70
Other (Eg Spares) €100,594.90 €75,493.24 €128,392.16
Total per Unit €442,098.62 €300,152.95 €509,740.89
TOTAL €1,251,992.46

 

The figures above, released by the Defence Forces under the Freedom of Information Act 2014, show over €836,000 was spent on fuel alone for the three vessels. The Irish Defence Forces have rescued over 17,000 refugees since the Navy was deployed to the Mediterranean over three years ago.

The LE Samuel Beckett was the most expensive ship to fund in 2016, costing over half a million euro for the year. The vessel was launched in November 2013 and cost €71 million. The LE James Joyce was the cheapest to fund for 2016 at €300,000. Each of the three vessels has weapon capabilities.

Over 2,000 people were saved in total by the LE Samuel Beckett with 50 of those saved in one rescue mission in November of this year as an overloaded rubber boat attempted to make its way from Libya to Europe. This is the second tour of the vessel as it originally began patrol in 2015 before being redeployed this year.

It is unknown how long the Irish Defence Forces will continue to operate in the Mediterranean or how much it will cost the state to keep the Navy operating in the area.

By Gavin Hyland & Louise Burne

 

Army numbers decreasing despite recruitment drive

Despite a recruitment drive over the course of last year, there are more than 100 fewer Defence Forces personnel now than there were at the end of 2015.

Following a Freedom of Information request, the Defence Forces released information which shows that 551 people were recruited into the army in 2016. This leaves the Defence Forces with a total permanent membership of just over 9,000, well below the approved establishment strength of 9,500 members.

The problem, according to Fianna Fáil’s defence spokesperson Lisa Chambers, is down to the slow process of replacing members leaving the Defence Forces. She said: “The recruitment process is fine, it’s constant, we are taking in people but we’re losing people at an even faster rate and we’re not replacing them.”

These numbers come despite the Defence Forces’ significant recruitment drive over the past two years, as the number of recruits actually brought into the Defence Forces is nearly fifty less than planned for 2016.

It remains to be seen if the Defences Forces’ original plan of recruiting 1,450 new members from April 2016 will actually come to pass, with Minister Simon Coveney saying that the army will recruit 850 new members in 2017.

By Sean Meehan

Dublin’s parks cost €3 million in 2016

Almost €3 million was spent on the maintenance of Dublin City’s parks in 2016, thecity.ie has learned.

Over half of the total money was used to maintain the Phoenix Park with €1.57M spent, with costs ranging from pest control to animal welfare to the upkeep of the park’s gardens.

Over 1.3 million people passed through the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre complex in the last twelve months, and it is estimated that ten million people use the whole park on an annual basis.

“Our principal objective is to protect, conserve, maintain and present national historic properties while encouraging appropriate public access,” said Niamh Guihen of the Heritage Services.

A further €630,000 was spent on the maintenance of the National Botanical Gardens, which saw 583,539 visitors in 2016.

A total of €251,000 and €201,000 was spent on the upkeep of St Enda’s Park and St Stephen’s Green respectively.   There are six hundred trees in Stephen’s Green that need to be managed and maintained.

The upkeep of the Irish National War Memorial Gardens (€155,000), the Garden of Remembrance (€34,000) and the Iveagh Gardens (€24,000) brought the total amount spent maintaining Dublin parks by the Office of Public Works to €2.86 million in 2016.

“Some of the costs [included] electricity, gas and water services, oil and diesel services, plants, shrubs and seeds health, safety and first aid repairs, gardening, painting [and] site maintenance,” said Guihen.

St Stephen’s Green was the second most visited park last year with 4.6 million visitors. The busiest month was August, with 574,726 visitors.

St Enda’s Park was the least busy with just 70,320 visitors despite the opening of the Padraig Pearse Exhibition in the park museum last July.

 

By Andrew Barnes & Jenna Cox

Irish secondary schools offering little language choice

Less than half the secondary schools in the Dublin area offer a modern European language, aside from French, Spanish, German and Italian, as a Leaving Cert subject.

According to the Department of Education, out of the 80 secondary schools in the Dublin area, 27 offer only the basics of French, German and Spanish as subjects for the Leaving Cert.

Latin is taught in half the schools in the Dublin area and is offered in more schools than modern languages such as Chinese, Japanese or Russian, as shown in the table below.

 

Ancient Greek 11
Arabic 14
Bulgarian 2
Chinese 31
Croatian 1
Dutch 5
Finnish 2
Hebrew Studies 5
Hindi 1
Hungarian 3
Italian 53
Italian (Basic) 4
Japanese 28
Japanese (LC only) 28
Latin 40
Latvian 4
Lithuanian 25
Modern Greek 3
Polish 26
Portuguese 5
Romanian 13
Russian 16
Russian (LC only) 23
Sign Language 2
Slovakian 1
Swedish 2

These statistics are taken over the last five years. In 2012, Ireland was found to have one of the lowest percentages in Europe of citizens who were able to hold a conversation in at least one foreign language – 40 percent compared with an average of 54 percent.

It was also found in 2014 by EIL Ireland (which encourages intercultural learning) that less than seven percent of Irish 10 year-olds learn a foreign language. The European average is above 70 percent.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton vowed to address these problems earlier this year with the introduction of new Leaving Cert languages and a promise that all Junior Cycle students would be learning a foreign language by 2021.

With Ireland lagging so far behind its European counterparts in the teaching of languages it is important that Mr. Bruton’s promises are upheld or else we may find ourselves even further behind the rest of Europe.

Statistics are over the last five years as provided by the Department of Education.

By Leo McGuinn

Number of children in foster care falls by almost 200

An amendment to the Adoption Act 2017 now recognises foster children, who were born to married parents, as eligible for adoption.

The new legislation, which was implemented in mid-October, opens a new door for children in foster care to be adopted. Before this, they were not permitted to be adopted, even if they had spent a significant amount of time living with one foster family.

According to figures provided by TUSLA, the Child and Family Agency, under the FOI Act, the number of children in the Irish foster care system has been decreasing since 2013.

In 2013, the overall number of children in foster care, whether based with a foster family, or living with relatives, was at 6,009. This was the highest it’s been in the past five years.

The newest report show that as of 31st December 2016, 5,817 children were in the foster care system, a decrease of 192 since 2013, but still higher than in years previous to that.

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Under this new act, unmarried couples who have been living together for more than three years will also benefit from this change, as they will be able to adopt a child together. Gay couples who are in a civil partnership can also now adopt.

This is one of the most significant changes in family law since the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015. The act addressed anomalies in family law and gave a new meaning to the word ‘family’. It gave rights to grandparents, step-parents and gave other relatives new avenues in which they could seek custody and guardianship of a child.

However, domestic adoption figures have dropped significantly in the past decade or so, from 253 adoptions in 2005 to just 95 in 2016.

Overall, adoption numbers had been in decline generally over the past number of decades, mainly due to a wide variety of social and cultural factors and changes in attitudes, and this has continued through the changeover,” said Mark Kirwan of the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI).

The largest decrease in domestic adoptions between the years 2005 and 2016 was between 2010 and 2011. Figures dropped from 189 in 2010 to 39 in 2011.

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The main reason for this was because the Adoption Act 2010 commenced in November of that year. The enactment of the Adoption Act 2010 made it a requirement that all applicants wishing to adopt in Ireland must be in possession of a valid Declaration of Eligibility and Suitability before an adoption order can be made.

It necessitated major changes in the assessment procedure, leading to a drop in orders granted immediately afterwards as new responsibilities were assumed by Tusla.

In 2016, a total of 95 Adoption orders were granted. The majority of these, 65, were made in step family adoptions.

While the majority of these were step family adoptions, nineteen adoptions were made in respect of children who had been in long term foster care. This was an increase of three since 2015 where there were sixteen foster care adoptions made.

2014 still had the highest number of foster care adoptions in the past five years, with 23, an increase of six from 2013.

It is expected that these numbers will rise over the coming years because of the modified Adoption Act.

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By Megan Walsh and Keeva Tyrrell

Reduction in euthanasia for Dublin’s dogs

Last year saw a significant decrease in the number of stray or abandoned dogs in Dublin being euthanised when compared to 2015.

Figures obtained from each of the council offices show how out of 1,423 dogs claimed by the four Dublin councils, 109 were put down; a 21 percent reduction from 2015’s figures which saw 138 stray dogs in Dublin being euthanised.

Dublin City Council had the lowest euthanasia rate with just under four percent of its claimed dogs  being put down, with the majority of the rest either being reclaimed by owners, re-homed or taken to a dog welfare group.

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Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown had the most successful reclaim rate with 33 percent of its claimed dogs finding homes again.

As well as a decrease in the number of stray dogs being put down, the overall number of stray dogs claimed by councils in 2016 slightly decreased from the previous year’s total. And the 1,516 stray dogs found in 2015 decreased by six percent to 1,423 by the end of 2016.

Despite this positive reduction, many problems regarding mistreatment and the large number of stray dogs still on the streets still need to be addressed.

Áine McAnally is a volunteer at Dogs Aid Animal Sanctuary, a charity set up to house, rehabilitate and rehome stray or abandoned dogs.

She said: “Education is going to be the most important tool to decrease the number of stray and abandoned dogs. Currently dogs are easy to come by, cheap to buy and so some people are able to discard them without thinking too much about it because there is no value put on the animal. People need to be educated regarding either neutering their dogs or being hyper vigilant when their dogs are in heat and allow no dog wander on their own.”

Despite the best efforts of shelters and dog charities such as Dogs Aid, the sheer amount of strays which are turned in on a yearly basis, even with a reduction in numbers, is still often too much for shelters to cope with. Shelters are often forced to refuse dogs due to lack of space, and ultimately this can result in the animal being put down.

“We work on the basis that we can only do what we can do. We have between 60 and 70 dogs in the sanctuary at any one time and about 30 core volunteers that help run the sanctuary. This is our capacity and we don’t go over that or the dogs will suffer. We take in as many dogs as we can, and as soon as a kennel space is available we fill that with another dog,” said McAnally.

Efforts by councils and shelters are responsible for an overall improvement in the 2016’s figure yet the problem of stray and abandoned dogs needs to be addressed at the source; the owners.

By Killian Dowling