Members of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) heard the claim at their annual conference yesterday and called on Garda management to replace handguns given to detectives with machine-guns.
Uzi machine-guns, capable of firing up to 700 rounds a minute, were withdrawn from use and detectives were instead issued with German-made Sig-Saeur (Sig) pistols which have less capability.
Insp Walter Kilcullen from Lucan, Co Dublin, told the conference in Sligo that if Garda Donohoe had been issued with an Uzi he might not have been murdered by armed raiders who robbed a credit union in Louth on Jan 25.
Insp Kilcullen said there was a nationwide withdrawal of the Israeli-made machine-gun, apart from members of the Special Detective Unit based in Dublin. “Why leave one section using the Uzi and then suggest that it is not an effective and modern weapons?”
However, many gardaí believe the reason the Uzi was removed from their armoury was due to training and ammunition costs.
Insp Kilcullen said that the Regional Support Units (RSU) were now equipped with Heckler and Koch machine guns, but that the RSU was not fully staffed.
“The Uzi was used by authorised members where risk assessment of duty warranted its carriage, such as cash escorts, checkpoints, VIP escorts etc. Members other than RSU have to rely on their personal issue Sig pistol. But the Sig is a handgun. The bullet travels at up to 900ft per second. The Uzi bullets is approximately 1,200ft per second,” he said.
Insp Kilcullen said that apart from its obvious firepower, the Uzi was far more intimidating to criminals. “Taking the Uzi out of use is like telling the Traffic Corps to return their motorcycles from motorway patrols and use Segways instead.”
Commissioner Martin Callinan said a decision had been made to withdraw the Uzi from some Garda units and maintained it would not have made the slightest difference if Garda Donohoe had been armed with one.
Mr Callinan added that he was looking at permanently arming all RSUs.
Currently RSU members only arm themselves when a major incident warrants it.