Gardaí want riot squad to be deployed at weekends
Public-order patrols already introduced in Dublin to deal with weekend disturbances
The GRA wants the Garda public order unit on standby across the State at weekends
Gardaí want riot squads, or public order units, to be on standby across the State at weekends to help deal with disturbances and for people who attack frontline workers to face a mandatory prison term.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA) is also urging senior Garda management to supply vans to public order units in every division.
It believes having mobile units capable of providing a rapid and robust response when trouble flares is now crucial in all parts of the Republic.
The proposal is set to be debated at the GRA annual conference in Galway which gets under way on Monday and it comes at a time of increasing concern about the number of assaults and serious attacks on gardaí while on duty.
The Easter weekend was marred by incidents in Dublin and Mayo which in both cases saw two-member patrols – a male and a female garda – come under attack by groups of men while responding to callouts.
Many in the Garda are concerned that falling numbers in regular policing units nationwide have put members at greater risk.
The GRA, which represents 10,200 rank and file gardaí in a force of 13,000, estimates there are more than 250 attacks on Garda members each year.
However, it says accurate figures are not collated by Garda headquarters and it wants an audit to establish the number of assaults on Garda members each year. The GRA believes the research should also review the impact of each assault on the injured gardaí and whether any prosecution resulted.
It is urging Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald to introduce mandatory prison terms for attacks on gardaí and other frontline workers.
The association believes changes to public order policing would prevent some of the attacks on its members.
New public order policing has been put in place already in Dublin’s south inner city. It involves members of the Public Order Unit discreetly patrolling the inner city late at night and into the early hours at weekends and offering back-up to gardaí on the beat.
They are dispatched to deal with a range of public order incidents, up to and including gang fights in the streets. However, because they patrol in an unmarked van with blacked out windows, they are not visible to people out socialising.
GRA president Ciaran O’Neill said the Garda was “too often used as a political football by government and opposition” parties.
“This has undoubtedly damaged morale of members on the frontline,” he said.
Mr O’Sullivan added the Garda had been “rocked by further allegations and perceived crises in the leadership and management” of the force.
While the public appreciate “the frontline garda is not responsible”, the “corporate image” of the Garda Síochána had been “damaged”.
“Our members are on the receiving end of negative commentary directed at the organisation,” he said.