Water charge protesters are using up Garda resources, says union

GRA president claims there is a ‘sinister element’ which has threatened gardaí

Garda Representative Association president, Dermot O’Brien: “When you have 10 or 15 guards being brought to a water protest, that’s tying up resources that could be used somewhere else, in deterring burglaries and crime somewhere else.” Photograph: Conor Ó’Mearáin

Garda Representative Association president, Dermot O’Brien: “When you have 10 or 15 guards being brought to a water protest, that’s tying up resources that could be used somewhere else, in deterring burglaries and crime somewhere else.” Photograph: Conor Ó’Mearáin

 

The policing operations around anti-water-charge protests are taking valuable resources away from the investigation of crime, the Garda Representative Association has said.

It also alleged a “sinister and dangerous element” within the protest movement has made threats to individual gardaí.

The association, which represents rank-and-file gardaí, said people using social media to coordinate protests had posted photographs of gardaí asking others to supply their names and addresses.

It said criminals had also offered money in exchange for information on the home addresses of gardaí who have investigated them. It wants a specific new criminal offence to be created to deal with the deliberate targeting of off-duty gardaí and mandatory prison sentences for those convicted.

At the opening of the GRA’s annual conference in Tullow, Co Carlow, association president Dermot O’Brien said it was time to act in relation to people seeking to take revenge on his members.

“As a result of their job, members of the public are taking out their anger on [gardaí],” he said. “Another element that has crept in in the last year is in relation to the water meter protests and social media. People attached to these social media forums are seeking the names and addresses of members of An Garda Síochána. There is a sinister element behind that – a very dangerous element.”

He said the ongoing protests were absorbing valuable Garda resources for the investigation of crime in a time of cutbacks.

“When you have 10 or 15 guards being brought to a water protest, that’s tying up resources that could be used somewhere else, in deterring burglaries and crime somewhere else.”

GRA vice-president Ciaran O’Neill, a member of the Special Detective Unit, said many of the water charge protests were not peaceful, despite chants of “peaceful protest” from those involved.

‘Nefarious reasons’

“Some of the protests aren’t peaceful and there is a need to intervene and to ensure peace is maintained. We have to pay the [water charge] bills as well. I might not be too happy but I still have to pay it. Attacking workers isn’t a peaceful protest.” Apart from the issues arising in policing water charge protests, the GRA said 600 members were attacked every year, just under half of whom sustained their injuries during assaults.

The association wants its members to be better armed. It has called for the reinstatement of Uzi submachine guns and for Taser stun guns to be issued to all gardaí.

The association said if a terrorist attack occurred on Irish soil, perhaps involving religious extremists, unarmed gardaí would likely be first on the scene.

And if it occurred at about 4am when most armed detectives were not rostered on duty, the unarmed uniformed members would be very vulnerable.

Mr O’Brien said: “We have gas, pepper spray and then the gun. We have nothing in between. We need something less lethal such as a Taser.”