Ireland ill-prepared for any terror strike, say garda inspectors

Gardaí would ‘run around like headless chickens’ if attack took place, conference told

‘Many front line members do not know on a daily or weekly basis, what the current threat level in Ireland is and we are asking that this is rectified immediately,’ said Sgt Antoinette Cunningham, on behalf of Agsi’s national executive. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

‘Many front line members do not know on a daily or weekly basis, what the current threat level in Ireland is and we are asking that this is rectified immediately,’ said Sgt Antoinette Cunningham, on behalf of Agsi’s national executive. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

 

Gardaí are ill prepared for any international terrorist strike in Ireland and would be left to “run around like headless chickens” if a bombing or mass shooting like those seen in other parts of Europe unfolded in the Republic, delegates at a Garda conference have been told.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) passed a motion at the close of its annual delegate conference in Westport, Co Mayo, for senior Garda management to provide Garda members withregular up to date information about suspects and the general threat level to Ireland.

The sergeants and inspectors are also urging Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan to analyse the front-line capability of the force to respond to an attack and provide the necessary training to counteract radical extremism in Ireland.

One delegate at the conference, who declined to be named because of the nature of his comments, suggested the Garda had effectively done no substantive planning or training for dealing with the aftermath of an attack like those seen in France and Belgium in recent months.

“What would you do if a terrorist bomb exploded on our main thoroughfares tomorrow, or if there was an attack with chemical or biological weapons at a large-scale public event such as the All-Ireland?” he asked delegates.

“I’ll tell you what you’d do – panic, panic and panic. We’d run around like headless chickens panicking.

“We... wouldn’t have a clue where to start, what plan to put in place, or how to investigate the incident.”

He added frontline Garda members were “bereft of knowledge, instruction or direction when it comes to the planning and investigation of international terrorist incidents”.

Appropriate instruction and training was needed immediately so gardaí would not be “blinded by the spectacle, but (be) ready, alert and capable of putting in place a coordinated plan that all members are aware of and trained in so as to effectively deal with the resultant disaster”.

Sgt Antoinette Cunningham, on behalf of Agsi’s national executive, said the leadership of the organisation agreed that training, information and intelligence should be provided to members across the country.

In recent days she had checked the website of the London Metropolitan Police and had found information about the current threat level to the UK from international terrorism as well as information on what constitutes suspicious behaviour. There was also instruction about what the public should do if they wanted to report such behaviour. But no information of that nature was ever published by the Garda or even shared among members of the force.

She told delegates it was not good enough to confine information on suspects and any changes to the threat level to the special antiterrorism units in the force.

“Many front line members do not know on a daily or weekly basis, what the current threat level in Ireland is and we are asking that this is rectified immediately,” she said, adding updates should be regular so that gardaí would be informed and stay vigilant.

“We would also question the capability, knowledge and training that members on the front line have in relation to responding to such an incident.”