GARDA Commissioner Fachtna Murphy yesterday ordered the immediate deployment of the Emergency Response Unit into Limerick as Justice Minister Brian Lenihan described the current climate of crime in the city as a tinderbox.
The commissioner announced his decision after briefing Mr Lenihan and Defence Minister Willie O’Dea during a visit to various crime blackspots in the city.
Commissioner Murphy said the ERU would be visible within days.
"The Emergency Response Unit will come here to Limerick and take up duty here for a period of time and augment the armed patrols that are here," he said.
"You can be sure you will see the ERU on the streets of Limerick very shortly in the next few days to deal with the problems we have here. I want to compliment the gardaí in Limerick.
"It’s tough policing in parts of Limerick, but they are doing a fine job as far as we are concerned. But I want to ensure that the people who break the law here, particularly in relation to firearms crime and drugs law, are brought to justice."
As well as community policing, the commissioner said Limerick needed forceful-type policing to deal with the firearms issue.
"We will do everything in our power to bring the people involved in last Tuesday’s shooting to justice," he said, referring to the incident where six houses in St Mary’s Park were hit with automatic gunfire.
Mr Murphy said the ERU had been successfully deployed in Limerick in the past and their presence was requested by garda management in the city.
Justice Minister Brian Lenihan said there were seven homicides in Limerick last year and this was the ultimate expression of what they were talking about.
He said: "We have to confront gangs who have poisoned life here. The extra gardaí will intensify the pressure on the criminals."
The minister said there were disturbing reports of very young people being involved in crime in the city.
"We accept and recognise the need for a heavy policing presence to ensure deterrents of behaviour as well. That is the big challenge here in Limerick, not just detecting crime but preventing it. I accept we are on a tinderbox in Limerick," he said.
The minister is also prepared to discuss extra sittings of the Circuit Court with the president of the court to deal with a backlog of serious criminal cases.
"Anything than can ensure that [court] business is dispatched in a rapid way will be examined."
He added that legal difficulties delaying the acquisition of a site for a courthouse near Limerick Prison are being resolved and it will proceed once these matters are finalised.