Garda centre axed over cutbacks


Plans to build a new Garda centre for training in firearms, advanced driving and dealing with armed crimes have been abandoned as part of recession-related spending cuts, it has emerged.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has said the force currently has no dedicated centre to train members in the use of firearms and to train specialist units like the Emergency Response Unit in tactical manoeuvres for serious armed incidents.

Delegates at the closing session of the GRA’s annual conference in Killarney, Co Kerry, were tonight told the Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary, was effectively being completely closed for two years because of the Government’s decision not to recruit any trainee gardai until the State’s financial position improves.

The development of a long mooted new training facility close to the Templemore facility has been impacted by the mothballing of the college.

A 220-acre site at Clonmore close to Templemore was to be used for a firearms and tactical training facility. However, the €5.5 million site has not been used since it was purchased three years ago and plans to begin development have now been put on hold. This is despite increasing gun crime and gangland crime.

A centre at Templemore used to train gardai in tactics need for armed siege situations, hostage taking and foiling in-progress armed robberies was closed down in recent years.

An underground firing range in Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin, has also been closed because of safety concerns. It means gardaí who want to learn to fire weapons or take part in refresher training are depending on the goodwill of the Defence Forces, who have a number of firing ranges.

Garda Donal Flannery, who represents the Garda College, disputed recent suggestions the college would be used for training while no trainees are being taken in from next month to the end of 2011.

He told the GRA’s conference 19 gardaí have been recently transferred from the college and that up to 50 others were expected to be deployed to garda stations in the coming weeks. Five driving instructors had retired recently and catering staff had also been let go from the college.

The conference also heard gardaí with diabetes and epilepsy were hiding their conditions because they would be taken off firearms and driving duties if their conditions were known. Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy said he planned to introduce an assessment system for gardaí, whose conditions would be graded allowing those with good health continue with their normal duties.