Gardaí would 'run around like headless chickens' in terror scenario, AGSI conference told

Gardaí would panic and “run around like headless chickens” if there was a terrorist attack, a Garda conference was told yesterday.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors called on Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan to conduct a risk assessment on the international terror threat and provide the necessary information and training to members.

The call stemmed from a motion debated, and unanimously passed, at AGSI’s annual conference yesterday.

A delegate, who wished to remain anonymous, told the conference: “I pose the question, what would you do if a terrorist bomb exploded on our main thoroughfares tomorrow, or if there was an attack with chemical or biological weapons at a large-scale public event such as the All-Ireland?

“I’ll tell you what you’d do: Panic, panic, and panic. We’d run around like headless chickens panicking. We, the people here today and our frontline colleagues around the country, actually wouldn’t have a clue where to start, what plan to put in place, or how to investigate the incident.”

The delegate said the recent terror attacks in France and Belgium had made governments sit up and realise Europe is now “a genuine and legitimate target for fundamentalist terrorist organisations”.

He said the likes of IS and al Qaeda pose “a serious threat and we in Ireland are not exempt”.

“It is in the realisation that we in Ireland are not beyond the possibility of an international terrorist attack that I raise the motion for this association to lead the call to have Garda resources prepared and ready to handle terrorist incidents and that our members must be appropriately trained in intelligence gathering, information analysis, prevention planning, interception techniques, and evacuation, and that a general policy be adapted to advise all members of pertinent information of threats, and that relevant instructions be prepared for members to follow in the event of such an attack.”

Another delegate, Liam Corcoran from Tipperary, said: “I have found it bewildering that our own Garda management has failed to provide us with a briefing, with information, with training, with equipment, with something that would help us define what this threat actually is and that would help us defend ourselves and the people we serve.

“Because, heaven forbid, but if that call should come we will turn out and we will do our duty but I want to think that we will have a reasonable expectation that we will make it home. As there is a recognisable hazard in our workplace, you must demand from the commissioner that she defines what the risk is and provides the appropriate control measures.”

Supporting the motion, AGSI president Antoinette Cunningham said many members do not know what the terror threat level is.

“We would also question the capability, knowledge, and training that members on the frontline have in relation to responding to such an incident. AGSI call on the Garda commissioner ensure that an immediate in-depth skills analysis of members’ capability to deal with an incident of this kind is conducted, and the results acted on, to ensure gardaí at all ranks have the appropriate skills to fulfil their role as first responders in these situations,” she said.

Speaking at the conference on Tuesday, Ms O’Sullivan said briefings had been provided to gardaí at local and regional levels. “International atrocities indicate just how seriously we must take our national security function and the international collaborations it requires,” she said.

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