Politicians and garda representative bodies have criticised the restructuring plan for An Garda Síochána announced by Commissioner Drew Harris yesterday.

A number of towns are set to lose divisional headquarters as part of a streamlining of the force's management structure under the new operational policing model.

It means that seven counties will no longer have their own chief superintendents.

Roscommon, Sligo, Monaghan, Navan in Co Meath, Naas in Kildare, Bray in Wicklow and Thurles in Tipperary will no longer be divisional headquarters as 28 divisions are reduced to 19.

Some chief superintendents will lose their positions as divisional commanders and although some will take up new posts as regional chiefs, it is unclear what their duties will be and what the other chiefs will do.

Commissioner Harris said the new model would deliver more resources, increase garda visibility and result in more localised and specialist services.

However, the Deputy General Secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, Antoinette Cunningham, said it has concerns about policing rural areas based on the reforms.

She said the plan seems to be about policing being pulled into central locations.

There has been criticism from public representatives in the regions affected, with independent TD Mattie McGrath saying it would escalate the crisis in Tipperary in relation to access to gardaí.

A member of the Tipperary Joint Policing Committee called on the commissioner to reverse the decision to merge the county's divisional headquarters with that of Clare.

Jim Ryan described the change as "the wrong decision" and a "downgrading" of the Garda force in the area at a time when rural crime is a concern.

However, Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Justice Jim O'Callaghan said he supports the reforms.

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Cost of presidential visits could not have been foreseen - Harris

The Garda Commissioner has said An Garda Síochána did not know about the visits of the US president and vice president when it was formulating budgets at the start of the year.

Drew Harris said the visits cost the force between €15m and €18m but they could not have been foreseen and built into the budgetary process.

It would be unreasonable, he said, to seek "a rainy day fund" of up to €18m for something that may not occur, he said, noting: "We may have no visits in 2020".

The Minister for Justice said the funding was "under review" but gave no commitment that An Garda Síochána would be reimbursed.

The funding shortfall has led to the commissioner imposing a ban on administrative and operational overtime.

Commissioner Harris told the Policing Authority that €20m of the overtime budget was spent on the quarter-hour briefing payment, which was negotiated by the Government with garda associations as part of an agreement to avoid a strike.

He said other overtime payments were made for court time, escorts, and security, work "we're locked into".

Overtime for garda operations was, he said, more limited than people may think.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach defended the costs associated with the visits and said he believed they were worth the money. 

"Anytime a high profile figure whether it's Pope Francis or President Trump comes to Ireland they are always welcome and there are benefits for Ireland in doing so," Leo Varadkar said.

Harris discusses juvenile diversion

In relation to juvenile offences, An Garda Síochána sent out over 6,200 letters to victims as a result of gardaí not pursuing over 3,000 children and young people for over 8,000 crimes.

Commissioner Harris told the Policing Authority that 100 of the children have died.

However, he said that "by and large" the process has succeeded in repairing much of the damage done.

He said the attitude of most people when contacted was that they had moved on with their lives, although there were "relatively limited circumstances" where people had been caused "considerable anguish".

The commissioner said that those people received a personal call and explanation. Gardaí called out to victims in 139 cases.

The Policing Authority was also told that 462 garda have been disciplined as a result of the failure to prosecute.

Assistant Commissioner Dave Sheehan said it has been decided in 4,500 cases that no disciplinary issues arose. He also said another 3,500 cases had yet to be decided upon.

None of the gardaí, he said, had been subject to serious disciplinary proceedings.

He also accepted there was an imbalance in how the divisions had dealt with the cases in their areas. Some had disposed of all cases while in at least two divisions hundreds of cases had yet to be dealt with.