Charlie Flanagan has reservations about arming all gardaí

The issue of violent crime will dominate the annual conference of the Garda Representative Association, which begins in Co Kerry this evening.

Charlie Flanagan has reservations about arming all gardaí

The Justice Minister has said he is cautious of arming gardaí.

Charlie Flanagan's comments come after members of the Garda Representative Association called for 24-hour armed support units in every division across the country.

The Association's annual conference begins in Kerry this evening.

Minister Flanagan has said he has concerns about arming all gardaí.

"The gardaí have had armed support for a long number of years," said the Minister.

"One of the great attributes of the Irish Garda service, the Garda Síochána, is the fact that it is in the main an unarmed police service.

"I think that's good and I would be concerned at attempts to ensure that the arming of the gardaí becomes commonplace."

Meanwhile, GRA President Jim Mulligan has said that a proper armed support unit in every division would "do away with the need for detective units to carry guns".

He told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that he believed that more resources and better targeting of criminal gangs would be needed to tackle the growing problem of ATM thefts.

Mr Mulligan said the GRA is calling for a full-time public order unit to be established in Dublin, which would provide another back up service for frontline members in Dublin.

He also said members would also like a clear policy on whether someone, arrested on suspicion of drink or drug driving, should be handcuffed.

Mr Flanagan did support the calls for 24-hour armed support units, saying there is scope for the expansion of the units.

"I think there is merit in ensuring that at a regional level, there can be an armed response should the circumstances warrant," he said, speaking from Killarney.

"And I'm thinking particularly in Drogheda where currently we have an armed support unit on the street in order to meet head on what is a particularly nasty challenge."

Earlier: Gardaí call for 24-hour armed support unit in every division in Ireland

Rank and file gardaí want 24-hour armed support units across every division in the country.

The issue of violent crime will dominate the annual conference of the Garda Representative Association, which begins in Co Kerry this evening.

GRA members from all 28 garda divisions will be represented at their annual conference, which gets underway later in Killarney.

Resources to tackle criminal gangs will be discussed, following a rise in ATM robberies along the border and an upsurge in violence in Drogheda.

Members want a 24-hour armed support unit in every division and a full-time public order unit in Dublin.

Gardaí say they also need clarity on when to use handcuffs if arresting people for drink driving.

The conference will hear calls to increase the age at which gardaí must retire, extra allowances for members living in rent pressure zones, access to the flu vaccine and for all garda cars to be fitted with GPS.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris will address the conference tomorrow.

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