Most armed gardaí receive no tactical training, say representatives

‘I can shoot a target or a piece of wood from 20ft away but I’m not told how to duck or dive’

Most gardaí, including the detective who shot killer Mark Hennessy a week ago, are not tactically trained, the Garda Representative Association (GRA) has said.

“You are taught how to shoot a gun, how to hold a gun and how to handle a gun but not any tactics around it. That is one of the biggest deficits,” said GRA president, Garda Ciarán O’Neill.

“I can shoot a target or a piece of wood from 20ft away but I’m not told how to duck or dive.”

Last week, a detective garda shot Hennessy as he sat in the front seat of his car armed with a Stanley knife. Hennessy was killed about 24 hours after he abducted Jastine Valdez in Enniskerry before murdering her.


He was killed instantly when the bullet hit his shoulder and ricocheted into his torso. It is understood the detective involved may have suspected Ms Valdez was also in the car and was in danger.

An investigation into the shooting by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission is ongoing.

Tactics such as how to clear a house, approach an armed suspect or take cover from gunfire, are not taught to most gardaí or detectives, Garda O’Neill said.

Terrorist incidents

Ordinary gardaí also do not receive training in how to deal with terrorist incidents, he said.

Each station has an emergency plan and training is provided to specialist units but frontline gardaí, who would usually be first on the scene of a terrorist attack, receive no specific instruction.

“There is training for the specialist units but we represent the 12,000 people on the front line as well and more likely than not they’re going to be the people on the scene and there is no training in respect of them. That is the concern that we have,” Garda O’Neill said.

The comments were made at the opening of the GRA’s annual conference which is focusing on the lack of training provided to front line gardaí.

‘Split-second decisions’

Garda O’Neill also suggested the public sometimes do not understand that gardaí often have to make “split-second decisions” based on their own judgement.

Asked if the public understands the position the detective who shot Hennessy found himself in, GRA vice president Garda Jim Mulligan said such decisions come down to the judgment of individual gardaí at the scene.

“It is a split-second decision that you have to make the choice between whether you are going to carry out what you need to carry out or not. That’s what it comes down to, a split second decision,” Garda Mulligan said.

“That gets lost a bit in the media in general and particularly with social media these days.”

On the subject of social media, Garda O’Neill added: “It is quite easy for someone sitting in an armchair with a keyboard to be critical. Walk a mile in my shoes and then you will realise just how difficult the job can be and how stressful it is when you do have to make decisions.

“Every member of An Garda Síochána on the street has to make a decision and they don’t know what it is going to be at the time.

“It could be anything; it could be whether to arrest somebody or not or whether to stop someone in traffic. They are the decisions that people have to make on the spur of the moment, based on what they see before them.”

These decisions can sometimes be a matter of life and death, he said.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times