The new armed response unit for Dublin, announced as part of a government package to fight gangland feuding, is not expected to be up and running for at least five to six months.
The Regional Support Unit was announced by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald on Tuesday following a meeting with Garda chiefs after a second gang murder in four days.
The minister said the unit — a heavily armed 24/7 roaming patrol squad — will have a staffing complement of 55.
The unit, together with increased Garda checkpoints and armed patrols, was announced in response to the murder of Eddie Hutch Sr on Monday night in suspected retaliation for the shooting dead of David Byrne last Friday.
On Tuesday, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan said the RSU would be fully operational in the “coming months”.
But a number of well-placed sources told the Irish Examiner that it will take “five to six months” for the RSU to be actually up and running, while another experienced source estimated it could take even longer.
Notification to gardaí of the competition to fill the unit is about to go out and insiders predict that will run for at least a month.
This is to give interested gardaí a chance to make their application, which then goes to their supervisor, who must write a report on their suitability. That report has to go up the hierarchy, before being submitted to human resources.
Sources say the interview and selection process would take at least another month.
The recruits will then undergo a three-month training period, which is similar to that provided to the elite Emergency Response Unit.
Some sources pointed out that current competitions have been moving “very slowly”.
This includes the competition for the detective branch, which is said to have been running for four to five months and no interviews yet. A similar competition for the Special Detective Unit has been running for more than two months and no interviews have been held.
Ms Fitzgerald said on Tuesday that an initial overtime budget of €5m was being made available to provide the equivalent service of the RSU pending its establishment.
This includes bringing extra shifts in from the SDU and the ERU to conduct the armed patrols. In addition, members of the existing RSUs in the other divisions are being brought in to provide patrols.
It is not clear how long the €5m overtime budget will cover, but it is unlikely to last for six months.
The minister’s establishment of the RSU, and its staffing complement of 55, got a mixed reaction.
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, representing supervisory ranks, called it “misleading” and said the 55 members will come from the frontline.
The Garda Representative Association, representing rank-and-file gardaí, welcomed the RSU, but did call for a budget to fill vacancies on the frontline.
Other sources said the next batch of 100 recruits are due in March.
The GRA has also called for local detectives to be armed with MP7 machine guns, to match the weaponry of the gang at the Regency.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved