Garda detectives are set to withdrawn 24/7 armed cover in most of the Munster region this Saturday, July 1, following the breakdown of talks in a row with senior management over the supply of weapons, writes Sean O’Riordan.
Last-ditch talks between Dublin-based senior garda management and more than 80 detectives from the Cork City Garda Division, who are members of the Garda Representative Association (GRA), broke down last night after they voted overwhelmingly to reject a deal on improved weapons training which did not include the issuing of non-lethal Tasers as part of their equipment.
Garda sources who attended the meeting said detectives were reasonably happy with garda management’s offer to roll-out proper Sig pistol firearms training and the issuing of bulletproof shields in Cork — equivalent to what their counterparts in Dublin had.
However, the stumbling block was the non-issuing of Tasers to detectives in the Cork region, other than those involved in the soon to be beefed-up armed Regional Support Units.
Detective members of the GRA say they are the frontline armed units who are, more often than not, the first at the scene at any serious incident.
They are concerned that, in cases of mental health and drug issues, they have no interim weapon to “neutralise the threat” to the safety of such people, or the general public, apart from a gun.
Tasering people with 50,000 volts incapacitates them and after a short period the victim will recover.
The alternative is a firearm and detectives are instructed, under extremely violent circumstances, to shoot at the upper body at close range, essentially to ensure that there is no collateral damage to bystanders.
Talks between senior garda management and detectives based in the Cork City Garda Division began nearly two weeks ago.
The genesis of the dispute dates back to 2015 when gardaí were dispatched to an incident in Minane Bridge near Kinsale, where they risked their lives by covering three children with their own bulletproof vests to protect them from a man who was firing at them.
Had they had bulletproof shields, which offer far greater protection, they would not have had to put their own lives on the line.
Garda management had recently agreed to restart enhanced weapons training programme for the Cork detectives, after halting it suddenly after training just 25 detectives.
It is understood garda management also agreed to immediately issue shields to those who had already undergone the training.
One garda source said the issuing of Tasers to frontline units was vital because pepper spray is not 100% effective in disabling a person armed a knife.
“A Taser will take somebody down immediately. If we only have pepper spray we might be left with no choice but to shoot our guns,” the source added.
This story first appeared in theIrish Examiner