GRA says lack of resources will leave gardaí ‘without armed backup’
Garda Representative Association says force not equipped to deal with organised crime
Members of the Emergency Response Unit training in Dublin in 2018. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has raised serious concerns about the resources, training and equipment available to the Emergency Response Unit (ERU).
A 2,000 word letter was sent by GRA representative Ciarán O’ Neill on Monday to Supt Alan McGovern of the Garda Special Tactics and Operations Command (STOC) who heads the elite armed unit. The contents of the letter was reported in The Irish Daily Star.
Mr O’Neill said last Friday, “a day that the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice openly stated that there would be no restriction on resources to deal with organised crime”, there was no ERU to deal with “any call”.
He also said last week members in Drogheda were left waiting for a number of hours for required assistance from the ERU.
“I wish that this was an isolated incident but I am informed of regular occasions when there were insufficient numbers available to deal with incidents,” added Mr O’Neill.
The GRA has said the number of armed patrols has been reduced, further leaving Garda members on the front line “without adequate armed back-up”.
It said at times there is “no available covert patrol car” due to the enforced restriction on the spending of overtime.
Mr O’Neill said the ERU has lost a number of members over the past year and the remaining members are left to fill the gaps without any additional resources, with 21 vacancies within the unit.
He said the decision to cut overtime means that the ERU in his opinion does not at times “have the available resources to deal with a serious terrorist or serious firearms incident and as such will leave our unarmed colleagues on the frontline without adequate protection”.
The GRA representative said he is advised that all emergency first responders qualifications are out of date and expired and no provision has been made to recertify such qualifications.
Meanwhile, all bulletproof vests on issue to the ERU are “well past the manufacturers warranty”, said Mr O’Neill. “Some are over 10 years old at this stage which is not acceptable,” he added.
However, the Garda chief superintendent for Louth has said he has never had any difficulty securing the services of the ERU.
Chief Supt Christy Mangan told LmFm: “I have never had any difficulty in securing the services of the ERU – they will be here at a moment’s notice for me, let it be 3 o’clock in the day or 3 o’clock in the morning – they have been here.
“I’m never shy about saying when we don’t have enough resources – I would always be very frank with the public – if there was a problem I would say it.”
On Tuesday the GRA said it is seeking an “urgent meeting” with the Garda Commissioner regarding resourcing the ERU.
“The purpose of the meeting is to discuss concerns raised in a letter from a local GRA representative to the Det Supt in charge of the unit,” said a GRA spokesman.
“This letter was internal correspondence and should not have been placed in the public domain. The GRA is making no further comment at this time.”
President of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors Antoinette Cunningham said the force needs the resources for all units to be at full capacity at all times.
Society is changing and becoming more violent and the Garda needs to be able to respond to that challenge, she told RTÉ radio’s News at One.
The safety of the public and members of the force must be a priority, she added, which was why a full capacity response was needed.
The Garda Press Office confirmed that correspondence has been received from the GRA.
“An Garda Síochána Special Tactics & Operations Command provides specialist firearms and less lethal response to spontaneous incidents, such as 999 calls and for pre-planned operations,” a Garda spokeswoman said.
“STOC has a number of specialist teams under its command including the Emergency Response Unit and Armed Support Unit nationally. An Garda Síochána Armed support capability, capacity and training has significantly increased in recent years.
“An Garda Síochána is satisfied that there is currently a specialist firearms response capability to any critical firearms incidents that may occur in the state,” said the Garda Press Office.”
In Cork on Tuesday Taoiseach Leo Varadkar expressed confidence that Garda Commissioner Drew Harris will address concerns raised by the Garda Representative Association about the resourcing of the elite ERU.
“I think we have to listen to the concerns raised by the GRA and I’m sure the Commissioner will respond to that in early course,” said Mr Varadkar when questioned while on the campaign trail.
Mr Varadkar said this year the Government has allocated €1.9 billion to An Garda Síochána which is the largest budget ever devoted by any government to policing in Ireland.
He said that in addition to the ERU, there were also armed Regional Support Units in every Garda region in the country while the Fine Gael-led Government had resumed recruitment of additional gardaí.
Asked about public fear over violent crime which was stoked by the murder and dismemberment of Keane Mulready-Woods (17) in Drogheda and the murder of Cameron Blair (20) in Cork, Mr Varadkar said he understood public concern.
“It is perfectly understandable that people are concerned. That is very much what we are hearing from people on the doors and on the streets and what I want people to know is that Fine Gael is the party of law and order.
“If we are given a mandate by the people, we will continue to invest in the gardaí and continue to tackle disadvantage because that is what is required,” he said.