Garda’s contingency planning goes to wire after commissioner’s order

Armed emergency response unit and armed regional support units will be on duty

 Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan:   gardaí ordered to report for work  following an unprecedented intervention.  Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan: gardaí ordered to report for work following an unprecedented intervention. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

 

The contingency plan for the Garda’s planned withdrawal of service will not be fully clear until Thursday evening, until senior officers know how many gardaí are prepared to turn up for work. Rank-and-file gardaí along with sergeants and inspectors have been ordered to report for work on Friday following an unprecedented intervention by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.

“You are looking at Wednesday for people to declare their hand and say whether they will be in work on not,” one source said. “It will be well into Thursday by the time you have a firm picture.”

Decisions about keeping Garda stations open and how emergency calls will be handled will not be made until very late in the contingency planning, The Irish Times has been told. The 24-hour action, from 7am on Friday, is being organised by the Garda Representative Association (GRA) and Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) as part of a 16.25 per cent pay restoration claim.

The armed emergency response unit and five armed regional support units will be on duty, while the Garda Technical Bureau will also be on duty to collect time-sensitive forensic evidence.

Passport controls will remain open. “Civilian staff already working on things like passport checks at immigration with even very small numbers of [Garda] members will keep those key places open,” the same source said.

The Garda Reserve, recruits and probationer gardaí will only be used in emergencies. Few members of the Garda Reserve, when asked a fortnight ago, volunteered for duty, according to sources. The unpaid part-time reserve force numbers fewer than 800. They do not have the full power of arrest and must be supervised at all times by a full time Garda member.

Garda recruits based at the Garda College, Templemore, neither had the power of arrest nor any experience of operational policing, while probationers in stations were also very inexperienced.

“You may feel by using them you are putting extra bodies on patrol, but the need for supervision means you are also using some of the other resources available,” one source said. “They will only be called in if things go really wrong or there is a need for a lot of personnel at a particular location for some reason.”

A number of sources said it would be “impossible” to police the State with just over 300 officers at the rank of superintendent and higher if all of the GRA and Agsi members withdrew their service. There are about 200 members at the rank of garda, sergeant and inspector who are not members of the GRA or Agsi. Ms O’Sullivan is hopeful that all of them will work on Friday.

If her stark warning encourages extra gardaí to turn up, then senior officers believe they could have 1,000 to 1,500 of them on duty, which would make a contingency plan workable.

“The associations have always said this was an individual member’s choice,” one Garda source said. “For some, the direction from the commissioner gives them an out, we feel. People who were not wild about this action all along can point to the order and tell their colleagues they feel they have to be in work.”