The Fórsa trade union has called for immediate engagement with officials from the Department of Justice on the new Policing Bill, which was approved by the Government yesterday.

Fórsa represents more than 3,000 Garda civilian staff employed by the Department of Justice who work in a variety of non-policing roles alongside Gardaí.

The union says its Garda civilian members have very deep concerns about provisions in the Bill that will empower the Garda Commissioner to recruit Garda staff directly into the police service rather than to the Civil Service, as is currently the case.

"The proposal in the new legislation would change the employment status of these civilian staff very significantly, confining them to the employment of An Garda Síochána," said Fórsa official Jim Mitchell.

"This would have the effect, for example, of closing off access to experienced staff with requisite skills transferring in from other parts of the Civil Service," he said.

Fórsa says that after engaging with its members, the major concerns expressed were loss of mobility, that civilian staff would be subject to GSOC governance, and that they would lose access to interdepartmental competitions in the Civil Service.

The union says that it relayed its concerns to the department last month and has sought engagement but no meetings have yet taken place.

Announcing Government approval of the bill yesterday, the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee said it would improve the performance and accountability of An Garda Síochána and strengthen independent oversight and governance.

"Empowering the Garda Commissioner to recruit Garda staff directly will enable the different skills and experience of Garda members and staff to be leveraged to contribute to enhancing the capacity of the organisation to deliver," Ms McEntee said.

"In the case of existing Garda staff I want to assure them that there will be engagement with their trade unions before any change in their status takes effect," she added.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said that the commencement of the legislation will have no automatic effect on the terms and conditions of existing staff who are civil servants and that any change in their civil service status is subject to consultations with their trade unions.

"Preliminary dialogue has taken place between the Department, Garda management and staff trade unions in relation to these changes," the spokesperson said.

"The Department has offered a meeting to Fórsa and this invitation remains open," they added.