THE majority of the country’s 1,328 Garda patrol cars are less powerful than some family saloons, and are incapable of pursuing dangerous criminals in high-speed chases, and not sturdy enough to protect their occupants if rammed by more powerful vehicles.
This claim has been made by the president of the Garda Representative Association, Michael O’Boyce, and TD Sean Sherlock, who acquired figures on patrol cars from the Department of Justice.
According to figures released by Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern, nearly three-in-four vehicles used by the gardaí are in the 100 brake horse power range, while the remaining 25% are more powerful at 140bhp.
Mr O’Boyce said that from the 1950s to the late 1980s Ggarda patrol cars were always more powerful than ordinary vehicles.
However, by the 1990s this superiority was lost.
“Garda patrol cars need to have larger engines, but the Government has been slower to implement this than we would like. It’s gone some way, but needs to go further,” he said.
The GRA president, who represents more than 11,000 rank-and-file gardaí, said larger cars were inherently safer.
“In the event of a collision, they generally have a better-built quality and more airbags; which are important features for Garda drivers and observers, as they have the ever-present danger of being rammed by other vehicles whose drivers do not want to stop,” said Mr O’Boyce.
He added that when pursuing a vehicle, a powerful patrol car has the advantage of allowing the Garda driver to slow down when road conditions dictate, and quickly achieve speed to pass out the other vehicle when safe to do so.
“A powerful car makes a huge difference; it makes a pursuit safer,” the GRA president said.
“Motorways are increasing and it is not acceptable that Garda patrol cars have average, or below average performance. To keep pace with a higher performance car means that Garda driver has to push his own vehicle too hard and this compromises everyone’s safety,” he said.
Mr Sherlock said he agreed with the GRA president that the vast majority of patrol cars in rural Ireland need to be of a higher performance.
He said that in Clare — one of the counties with the lowest number of patrol cars — of the 30 vehicles in use, just seven were 140bhp.
He added that slow patrol cars had no chance of catching boy racers or serious criminals and the Garda fleet needed to be upgraded to match the challenge of modern policing.
Mr O’Boyce said bigger patrol cars were also more suitable for carrying prisoners.
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