Call for more armed units in border areas

Fears have been raised there aren’t enough armed garda units in border areas to combat dissident republicans if they were to attack security posts, likely to be established in the event of a hard Brexit.

GRA members want more armed units set up to cover the region or, at a minimum, provide weapons such as Uzis which were used by detectives 10 years ago.

There has reportedly been an increase in recruitment to subversive groups in the North since the announcement the British are pulling out of the EU.

The recruitment has allegedly been notable in the north-west of the Six Counties, close to the border with Donegal, and gardaí say they need an increased armed backup to deal with any risks.

Meanwhile, frontline gardaí have said they are generally lacking the proper equipment to do their job effectively.

GRA president Ciaran O’Neill told the conference that when a Dublin supermarket was looted in recent months, garda patrol cars were grounded as they couldn’t cope with wintry road conditions.

They had to be transported to the scene by the Army which had more suitable vehicles.

“That showed just how unacceptable it is for An Garda Síochána to use normal family saloons,” Garda O’Neill said.

 “Rather than using vehicles that are better suited to bringing families to the beach or the supermarket, we need purpose-built vehicles that are suitable for policing work.”

He also proposed all new additions to the garda fleet should be fitted with protective screens to separate gardaí from suspects in the rear passenger seats.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said between 2013 and last year, €44m had been spent on enhancing the garda fleet.

He said that 2,000 new vehicles would be coming on stream up to 2021.

Mr Flanagan said that a goal had also been set by 2021 to have 4,000 civilians working in the gardaí, around 20% of the total headcount which was reportedly in line with international norms.

“I believe the civilianisation programme represents a positive change.

“This will ensure that sworn members of all ranks are reassigned to operational duties.”

However, GRA spokesman John O’Keeffe said the Government commitment to increase the size of the force by a further 1,000 to 15,000 in four years’ time still was not sufficient.

He said the PSNI has 7,000 members protecting a 1.8m population which would equate to some 20,000 gardaí in the Republic.

In Scotland, there are more than 18,000 police officers for a population of 5.3m, which would equate to 17,000 gardaí here.

“No matter what way you stack it there are not enough gardaí to support our increasing population levels,” Mr O’Keeffe said.

“There is also a clear discrepancy in the number of gardaí stationed in different counties around Ireland.”

He said certain Western seaboard and Munster counties had one garda for every 350 people.

Meanwhile, counties in Leinster, such as Meath, Kildare and Laois, had one garda for every 650 people.

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