The Government has been urged to ensure gardaí in Cork are properly trained and equipped for armed conflict, amid threats by local officers to withdraw services.
Junior Justice Minister David Stanton said the Government was determined that all gardaí would have the resources they need, and further training and resources would go to the southern units.
He came under pressure after concerns, highlighted by the Irish Examiner, about 80 armed detectives withdrawing cover on a 24/7 basis in the Cork region from July 1, amid claims by the Garda Representative Association that its members have been left vulnerable by Garda management’s refusal to give them proper training and equipment to tackle gangland crime or terrorist attacks.
Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher raised the report in the Dáil, saying detectives wanted proper firearms and bullet-proof shields, and he inquired what Garda management were doing about the matter.
Mr Stanton said there were arrangements in Cork to rely on the Armed Response Unit and, where necessary, the Emergency Response Unit.
However, Mr Kelleher said that was no assurance and detectives wanted resources. If no action was taken, it would jeopardise the safety of gardaí and would send out a signal to criminal elements that gardaí were fighting crime with one arm behind their back.
The GRA has told Garda management that, from July 1, detectives will no longer provide armed cover around-the-clock, which is likely to lead to gaps in service provision at certain times.
Since 2011, the GRA has been seeking the same training and equipment for Cork-based Garda detectives as has been given to the Special Detective Unit in Dublin, whose members are equipped with bullet-proof shields. That unit was issued with shields so they could provide armed cover when the Emergency Response Unit was not working in the Dublin area.
The GRA call for the same shields to be issued in Cork was sparked a few years ago by an incident in the Minane Bridge area, 25km south of Cork City, when a uniformed garda risked his life to save three children by taking off his bullet-proof jacket and using it to shield them from a man shooting at him and his colleagues.
Garda John O’Neill used his protective jacket as gardaí were not equipped with bullet-proof shields.
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