Rank and file gardaí want specialist anti-terror training

GRA says their members will be first to the scene of any terrorist incident in Ireland

Delegates at the opening session of the GRA’s 39th annual conference, in Co Galway. Photograph: Conor   Ó Mearain

Delegates at the opening session of the GRA’s 39th annual conference, in Co Galway. Photograph: Conor Ó Mearain

 

Rank and file gardaí want specialist anti-terror training several times per year because they will be the first to the scene of any terrorist incident in Ireland.

The Garda Representative Association said low-cost terrorism, such as the attacks that saw trucks driven into crowds in Nice, London and Stockholm, could occur in the Republic.

And if such an Islamist extremist incident occurred, unarmed uniform gardaí would be the first line of response yet they had not training to deal with such incidents.

Garda James Morrisroe, from the Garda’s Cavan-Monaghan division, said there was no reason to believe the Republic was immune from the growing terrorist risk across Europe.

“Following the attack in Stockholm, there is no reason why Ireland, as a modern, democratic and neutral country, would not be at risk”, he told delegates at the GRA’s annual conference in Salthill, Galway.

And with lone wolf low-cost attacks requiring little planning or financing, it was vital the Garda was more prepared than at present to deal the aftermath of such an incident.

Rank and file officers in all other European countries had been given anti-terrorism training by their police forces.

This would include managing the scene of a major incident in a public place and would encompass learning how to best divert crowds from risk or evacuating large areas quickly and safely.

The speedy erection of security cordons, for example, may be the difference between an attacker being caught by or evading gardaí.

While the armed Emergency Response Unit and Regional Support Units were trained and equipped to deal with armed incidents, including terrorism, it was important that regular gardaí on the beat knew exactly what to do to keep the public safe in the event of a terrorist incident.

Delegates said there would be no time to wait for specialist units if an attack occurred. They also pointed out that the counter terrorism expertise of the Special Detective Unit and policing in the Border region would be of little use to gardaí who needed to react on the scene of an attack in a crowded public place.

Asked about the provision of anti-terror training to all garda members with a ring-fenced budget, Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan said on Tuesday afternoon that training in the force had been undermined by the recession. And she accepted the Garda had “a lot of catch-up to do” in that regard.

The terrorism environment was changing globally. A police officer had been killed in an attack in London when a truck was driven into a crowd and the attacker fatally stabbed the officer, PC Keith Palmer. There had also been similar attacks in Sweden and France and more training was required.

However, she believed the roll-out of armed Regional Support Units and the Armed Support Unit for Dublin represented progress. And these were being strengthened so they would work on a 24-hour rostering arrangement.

She had hoped a new National Firearms Command, over all the armed and emergency response units and their training, would have been in place by the end of last month.

However, the Policing Authority had not yet filled a number of chief superintendent vacancies and this has delayed the project.