Extra armed garda resources are to be deployed to Limerick to add to its already enhanced armed personnel focused on fighting organised criminal gangs, senior gardaí have confirmed.
Chief superintendent Gerry Roche, who heads the entire Limerick Garda Division, said he is building on the drastically improved resources to the city.
He said he is to receive two extra armed support units to further complement the two armed support units there. This will bring the number of armed gardaí in the division to about 70 and will see a rise in local armed support units personnel from “12 to 18 members”. A similar number are attached to armed support units in Cork.
Chief Roche said there are about 50 armed gardaí in the division, including a “significant” number attached to the local Special Detective Unit.
We are about to launch a third and fourth armed unit in Limerick in the next few weeks. It’s the result of a long-term plan.
"It takes between six to eight months to select and train gardaí for the armed units. It’s a tough process,” he added.
Limerick also has two dedicated intelligence officers, attached to the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), targeting assets bought by people through the proceeds of crime.
Only a few years ago, Limerick, similar to the situation in Drogheda, Co Louth, was in the grip of a drug gang war. However, a huge investment in garda resources as well as in disadvantaged communities (previously strongholds of the gangs) led to a long-term cessation in gangland killings, and a dramatic reduction in shooting incidents.
Senior gardaí and politicians in Limerick, where the gangs have been largely quietened, all agreed that Limerick is an example of how the State should respond to the feuding situation in Drogheda.
Prior to the arrival of the armed support units, “unformed members” in Limerick received “firearms training” and were put to work on shifts, outside of normal working hours, to ensure there was an armed back-up provided in the event of a serious incident, a senior garda source said.
This has since been phased out of Limerick, however, it should be considered as a short-term measure in Drogheda, the source added.
John Gilligan, who was mayor of Limerick from 2008-2009, said gardaí were completely under-resourced when responding to the feud initially. Things changed for the better, he said, “when we got gardaí who were armed the same as the people who were selling drugs”.