GRA questions whether there are enough gardaí to conduct Covid-19 border checks

Members won't be found wanting – but they are already stressed and stretched, says the Garda Representative Association
GRA questions whether there are enough gardaí to conduct Covid-19 border checks

A 'clear plan for policing the border' is needed, say gardaí. File Picture.

Gardaí along the border need a "clear and resourced" plan if they are expected to enforce strict travel restrictions for people entering the Republic from Northern Ireland, the largest garda staff body has said.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA), which represents over 12,000 rank and file members, also questioned if there were enough gardaí and vehicles to implement the proposed Covid-19-related checks.

GRA vice-president Brendan O’Connor told the Irish Examiner: “A clear plan for policing the border must be developed, resourced and communicated to gardaí if they are to be expected to enforce strict travel restrictions for people entering the Republic from Northern Ireland.

Border gardaí have already experienced the difficulty of implementing a strategy in which there was no enforcement coming in from the North.” 

He said this was “frustrating for members” and reduced their effectiveness in some circumstances.

“Gardaí being sent out to enforce any legislation need to be equipped with a knowledge and understanding that can only be achieved with training,” he said.

Mr O’Connor said the effectiveness of fixed charge notices issued to non-residents has always been in question and said that this will continue to be the case.

“Gardaí need to know whether the requirement for people entering through ports and airports north of the border and then travelling by road into the Republic, will require the same proof of being tested for Covid-19 within the previous 72 hours that those arriving into our own airports require.” 

He added: “Gardaí in the border are already stretched, we are policing a pandemic with significant absenteeism due to Covid and continue to deliver regular policing services.” 

Gardai set up a Covid19 checkpoint near Dublin airport as the Cabinet meets on Monday to discuss tightening travel restrictions. Picture: Niall Carson/PA

Gardai set up a Covid19 checkpoint near Dublin airport as the Cabinet meets on Monday to discuss tightening travel restrictions. Picture: Niall Carson/PA

He pointed out that in the last week, gardaí have dealt with a drugs and a firearm seized in Louth, a huge security operation along the Cavan border and a garda car rammed in Donegal.

“One has to ask whether we have the personnel and the vehicles to deliver what is being discussed,” Mr O’Connor said.

Our members will not be found wanting but there is only so much that can be asked of the same group of workers already under significant strain.” 

He said there were other issues that affect the whole country such as whether gardaí are to carry out the self-quarantine checks being mooted.

“Too often, Government has decided on policy first without giving due consideration to the practicalities of implementation, leaving our members on the front line trying to deliver on unrealistic expectations.”

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