By Sean O'Riordan
At least 1,000 extra gardaí would be needed to police a hard border with the North.
Garda Representative Association (GRA) delegates heard the State would have to deploy that number along the border for security reasons if Brexit talks result in a hard customs border.
GRA central executive committee member Garda James Morrisroe, who is based in the Cavan/Monaghan Garda division, said 1,000 was a “conservative figure” for policing the 500km border, which has 208 crossings.
He said Garda resources are “already stretched” along the border from Inishowen, Co Donegal, to Dundalk, Co Louth.
Since the Good Friday Agreement, a number of Garda stations have closed along the border. Also, a number of gardaí “who knew the areas like the back of their hands” have retired and this has led to a loss of local knowledge, he said.
Garda Morrisroe said that gardaí were drafted into border duty in 2001 to stop the spread of foot-and-mouth disease into the Republic.
“That was a solution to a temporary problem,” he said.
Acting commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin said the Garda authorities are “looking into all possible outcomes and whatever might land” as a result of Brexit negotiations.
He said work is “ongoing” on the issue, but added that he had no estimate yet on what number of gardaí would have to be posted to the border if it is to become a hard border.
“The reality is that until we see what picture emerges we can’t plan in any great detail,” he said.
Mr Ó Cualáin pointed out that the Government had committed to increasing the size of the force to 15,000, which would be the biggest strength in its history.
The acting commissioner added that further armed support units were being trained and soon there will be 24-hour armed cover nationwide.
Meanwhile, the force’s chief administration officer, Joe Nugent, pointed out that legislative change may be required to provide body cameras to frontline gardaí, which is being called for by the GRA.
Mr Nugent said the GDPR legislation introduced across the EU last Friday would have implications if body cameras are introduced.
He said another consideration is whether such cameras would be left rolling, or would they be turned on only at certain times.
Mr Nugent pointed out that some countries have a system whereby the cameras are constantly rolling while others have opted for just turning them on at certain times.
New sets of Garda uniforms were unveiled at the conference. One is for UN service, another for armed gardaí, and a third for ordinary gardaí. They will be piloted in July for three months at three garda stations in Dublin, Limerick, and Wexford.