New Garda protocols to assess ‘suitability’ and training of eviction agents

Garda force criticised after high-profile Dublin eviction led to disturbances in 2018; sources insist same mistakes will not occur again as eviction ban lifted

Senior Garda officers must examine the suitability of landlords’ agents carrying out evictions before deciding if gardaí should be deployed to an eviction scene under new protocols aimed at avoiding mistakes of past evictions or repossessions.

It is anticipated evictions will surge in coming weeks once the eviction ban is lifted on April 1st and the Garda’s new approach will be tested during that period.

Garda sources told The Irish Times they were concerned members of the force may be deployed to the scenes of more evictions when the ban on no-fault evictions expires at the end of the month. While the Garda has no role in carrying out evictions, gardaí are often deployed to the scenes if a breach of the peace occurs, or to prevent such disturbances.

However, sources added the mistakes made by the force at past evictions had been recognised and would not be repeated in the event evictions spiked in coming weeks.


“Those [past evictions] were examined very closely and there is learnings from them so you won’t see the same type of Garda presence that we saw at some of the more high-profile evictions or repossessions and a few years back,” said one Garda source.

In 2018 the Garda was criticised after members of the force wearing safety hoods – similar to balaclavas – stood outside a property in north central Dublin as agents for a landlord went inside and enforced a court order to clear protestors from the building. There were clashes on North Frederick Street between gardaí and the protestors’ supporters, with claims gardaí were facilitating an eviction by masked men working for a landlord.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris conceded basic mistakes had been made, adding that gardaí would not allow security companies or other third parties acting for landlords to set the parameters for when and how evictions occurred. In other evictions and repossessions, landlords or banks brought in agents from Northern Ireland and, in some cases, this led to concern about their background and suitability.

Since the incident in 2018, the Private Security Services (Amendment) Act 2021 has introduced new regulations for those involved in “enforcement guard” activities, meaning agents acting executing court orders relating to repossessions and evictions. However, while the legislation is in place and stipulates they must be registered, trained and vetted those new rules have not yet commenced.

The Private Security Authority is now charged with regulating enforcement guards in the same way it regulates other parts of the private security sector. However, it was still putting in place the new systems required before it could commence the regulation of enforcement guards.

Under the new Garda protocols for evictions, the role of any gardaí present at an eviction or repossession will be to prevent a crime taking place, rather than take any active part in the eviction or repossession. When carrying out a risk assessment to determine if a Garda presence was required, the new protocols state gardaí must review the “legality of the repossession of eviction”.

They must also establish if the court order being executed sets out any role for gardaí. Any agent acting for a landlord must have a health and safety statement and risk assessment, which should be reviewed by senior Garda members deciding if gardaí should be deployed to a scene.

The decision-making senior gardaí must also assess if the agents carrying out an eviction are “suitably trained” and if they have an “operational plan”. Garda sources said these provisions were in place to avoid members of the force being present and effectively looking on as dubious agents who were ill-prepared or untrained cleared a building.

Rory Hearne, assistant professor of social policy at Maynooth University, has researched and written extensively on the housing crisis and said many tenants facing eviction would have no option but to stay in their properties, or overhold. While landlords would apply to the Residential Tenancies Board to mediate a solution, they could eventually go to the courts and secure an order empowering them to remove a tenant.

Mr Hearne said ultimately the execution of such orders, which allow for forced evictions, would likely be resisted. This could create conflict between local communities and gardaí, he said. There was “utter desperation” on the part of tenants facing eviction as they were “terrified” of losing their homes and being forced into emergency accommodation.

“Overholding is going to increase and we will also see protests emerge around that,” Mr Hearne said. “I think it’s inevitable that in communities people are going to know of a family who is facing eviction and they’re going to go down and try and stop that eviction.” Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin, said it could not offer comment on evictions, which were “civil matters”.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times