TDs alerted to need for tighter security in constituency offices

Gardaí advise politicians on how best to assist staff in wake of rising threat from public

Risk register: Gardaí say an intruder alarm and CCTV systems should be installed to monitor access in offices and public waiting areas. File photograph: Getty Images

Risk register: Gardaí say an intruder alarm and CCTV systems should be installed to monitor access in offices and public waiting areas. File photograph: Getty Images

 

The gardaí are advising TDs to install panic buttons in their constituency offices and place a screen between staff and members of the public.

The advice is contained in a briefing on the “formulation of a security risk register for constituency offices” sent to each deputy on Friday.

It follows a meeting held by gardaí in Pearse Street station last week on how politicians can help people working in their constituency offices. Staff are reporting increased intimidation in their workplace.

In the first instance, gardaí suggest an intruder alarm and CCTV systems should be installed to monitor access in the offices and the public waiting areas.

In addition, there should be control measures to curtail access between public areas and the office and potentially control access electronically from the reception desk to the office.

“A level of training will need to be provided to staff if both the above measures are implemented and a security risk is developed. The implementation of the above security measures and the development of a Security Risk Register will provide a safe and secure environment for elected members, staff working therein and members of the public who may visit the office.”

The register advises TDs how to mitigate or control the risks staff may face. These include announced and unannounced protests or a fire bomb being thrown into the office.

It gives clear advice on how staff should respond if a protester enters an office, pours flammable liquid on themselves and threatens self-harm.

In these situations, staff and members of the public should be moved from the immediate and adjacent areas. Senior staff members “trained in conflict management” should then endeavour to negotiate with the protester from a “safe distance”.

If a bomb threat or suspicious mail is received at the office staff are to contact gardaí and decide a course of action from there.

The move follows several TDs reporting staff in their constituency offices being verbally abused and claiming threats have been issued against them.

The Houses of the Oireachtas has acted to allow TDs claim expenses for the installation of security in their constituency offices, including CCTV and alarm systems.

Gardaí and the Houses of the Oireachtas are now keen to identify a clear protocol for each constituency staff member.

Several Labour members have had their offices targeted. In 2015 gardaí were called after death threats were made against former minister for the environment Alan Kelly and a suspicious package was sent to his office.

There was also an arson attack on the office of Fine Gael Senator Michelle Mulherin that same year.

In 2012 a petrol bomb was thrown into the offices of Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh while staff were working inside.