Armed gardaí on streets of Cork following public order concerns
Armed gardaí as well as the force’s riot squad were deployed to Cork City centre last night after reports that a high-profile shop on St Patrick’s St was about to be robbed by a group of teenagers.
The Garda Public Order Unit, commonly known as the riot squad, along with a single armed support unit, were sent to patrol the streets of Cork City centre amid fears that a group of teenagers were about to go on the rampage. There were also a number of gardaí on foot patrol.
Shortly after 6 pm, a group of up to 100 teenagers with their faces covered could be seen running along St Patrick’s St after a notice was posted on Twitter by an unknown individual or group calling for a raid on JD Sports.
The message was circulated on social media advising people to gather outside McDonald’s on Winthrop St, off St Patrick’s St, at 5.30pm.
The message stated: “Dress code. You must wear all black with bally [balaclava] and gloves. You only have one minute to yam that shop. This is at your own risk. Don’t come if you can’t run.”
The message also advised “don’t come in uniform”, indicating that at least some of those involved were school students.
Shoppers in the city centre looked on as the garda units patrolled the city streets, ensuring that no rioting or robbery ensued. One eyewitness on St Patrick’s St said a group of youths had begun kicking bins and screaming.
The group dispersed once gardaí arrived, according to the eyewitness. Calm was restored to the city centre within an hour as gardaí continued to patrol the streets.
Earlier, shoppers became suspicious when large groups of youths with their faces covered began to gather in the area.
Gardaí swamped the area with several units between 6pm and 7pm before the crowd eventually dispersed.
There were no arrests, but gardaí said investigations are ongoing.
A Garda spokesman said gardaí were made aware of the potential for an incident to occur at a retail premises the street.
“Additional resources were deployed to the area to prevent any incident occurring,” a spokesman said.
“No offences have been disclosed in the area. Gardaí continue to patrol the area currently.”
Business leaders and local politicians described the incident as sinister and worrying after details of the online messages emerged.
Cork City Labour councillor John Maher called for all those involved in the suspected pre-planned incident in Cork to face the full weight of the law.
“This type of plan was chilling and sobering,” he said.
“I will be writing to the Minister for Justice and the Garda commissioner to request that special branch officers are drafted into Cork City to stamp out this type of thuggery immediately.
“We must lance this boil before any other copycat attempts are made in the city or in surround shopping centres.”
It is believed the foiled incident may have been modelled on a gang raid of a JD Store in London on Halloween night last week which is being investigated by Scotland Yard.
A gang of masked and hooded youths looted a JD Sports store in north London, grabbing handfuls of branded clothing before fleeing the scene.
The entire incident was videoed on SnapChat and shared widely.
Earlier this month, it emerged that chronic shortages of gardaí in Cork meant just two members of the force were patrolling the city centre one night.
Despite the fact that gardaí in the city are investigating three murders, the number of detectives has been almost halved.
The Garda Representative Association says the people of Cork City are not getting the policing service they deserve because they are short 125 frontline gardaí.
The association has described this situation as “farcical”, considering there is supposed to be a major push to civilianise administrative work within the force.
Limerick has 490 gardaí for a population of 166,817, or one garda per 340 people. Waterford has a population of 112,967 and 275 gardaí, meaning a ratio of one garda to 411 people.
On the other hand, the Cork City Garda Division has 576 gardaí for 246,282 people, a ratio of one garda to 427 people.
Mr O’Connor said recent events in Co Cavan show what happens when policing is dismantled and withdrawn and he does not want to see the same thing happen in Donegal.
He said GRA members in the county have concerns about their own safety and the ability to deliver a service to the community.
Looking at Cavan, he said, if policing is withdrawn, criminality can take hold.
“While we don’t have the same high profile level of sinister incidents they have experienced in Cavan, certainly the ingredients are there for the same problems to evolve in Donegal”.
Policing in Donegal was decimated by austerity, he said, and while he acknowledged the county has received some new recruits, “it is only now clawing its way back and there’s still a deficit”.
He said members do not want to move away from the rural unarmed policing model in place in Donegal, but the inescapable reality is that it is in the border region and there is a severe threat in Northern Ireland. He said the northwest is a pocket of dissident republican activity and incidents do spill over the border.
Mr O’Connor said members are happy to be out there unarmed in the community but they need to have the confidence to know that when they need armed support, it is there.
There are three Armed Support Units in the border region: Dundalk, Cavan and Ballyshannon.
However, he said Ballyshannon has to cover from Malin Head to Sligo, and Cavan is at least two hours away.
There have also been occasions, he said, when decisions have been made to give armed support but those decisions were over-ridden by budgetary concerns.
Donegal has unique policing circumstances which he said are not being taken into account, he argued, saying gardaí there are more vulnerable and isolated than any other gardaí in the country and have genuine concerns about their safety.
He called for a tiered response, saying not all situations require a full Armed Response Unit, but there is a capacity within An Garda Síochána to deploy long-barrel weapons by the Special Detective Unit in Dublin and that should be re-introduced in Donegal.
“Our management made a strong business case to have that and we haven’t been given a convincing argument why we shouldn’t be able to deploy local members,” he said.
In response to the GRA concerns, An Garda Síochána issued a statement saying local garda management closely monitors the allocation of all resources in the context of crime trends, policing needs and other operational strategies in place on a district, divisional and regional level, to ensure optimum use is made of garda resources, and the best possible garda service is provided to the public.
It said that “senior garda management is satisfied that an adequate policing service continues to be delivered and that current structures in place meet the requirement to deliver an effective and efficient policing service to the community. This situation is continually reviewed.”
The statement outlined that “Since re-commencement of recruitment in 2017, 79 probationer gardaí have been assigned to date to Donegal.
“Currently there are 444 gardaí assigned to Donegal Division, outside of the DMR this is the 4th highest divisional allocation, and the highest allocation for a predominantly rural division.
“During this period the overall number of gardaí in the border region has increased by 190, with approximately 1,500 gardaí deployed in the border region.
“These members are supported by Regional ASU and National Units including STOC, SCO, SDU, Security & Intelligence …
“An additional Garda Armed Support Unit base has been established in Cavan Garda Station, the Armed Support Unit now operates from three bases covering the border region, Dundalk, Cavan and Ballyshannon.
“There are currently 67 vehicles attached to the Donegal division, which are deployed in accordance with local management policing requirements.”
Fred is aghast: a couple of years ago friends of ours who live on a lane in Dublin 4 went through a night of fear, anxiety and chaos. Unaware to them their daughter aged only 14 planned a Gaffe party on her smartphone. Yes one would have to ask who would give a 14 year old a smartphone. Well, the answer is – we are living in modern Ireland. The night in question, over 50 to 60 young boys and girls turned up, some drunk but others carrying bags of beer and vodka. The father stood firm and he had no choice but to phone the local Gardai. These young kids potential monsters had no fear; they just laughed at the cops and gave them the fingers. Now again let me remind you these kids were only 14 years old. One has to ask how, and where, did the purchase the alcohol. They climbed over walls into neighbours gardens and for two hours neighbours were literally hiding behind their so-called locked gates.
Now, let’s go to Cork City this weekend. These youngsters could organise a mass gathering in under an hour in Patrick Street wearing “clavas” and black clothes. These young people having taken the cue from the Yellow Vests using the smartphone for what is designed to do communicate to as many as possible in as a short a time as possible. We see it advance a state further in Hong Kong. We are talking Flash mob rioting activated by smartphone instruction using “Surprise and Impact” for the purpose of creating a riot. Can you imagine if 50 seasoned experienced men wanted to cause mayhem in the City of Dublin how easy it would be? The question is: Can Drew Harris not see the problem here. Let me give the Commissioner a hint. When young people become detached from the Establishment and don’t feel part of it and can see all around them the corruption; they see the Gardai as the number one enemy. Sad but we all have to face reality at some time. I said it before and I will say it again – Gardai in their own districts should know their people; they should be on the ground; where is the community Policing. Sadly it scores zero.
In the middle of all this we have the GRA body of the Gardai coming out yesterday and the comments were something like from the Life of Brian and it beggars logic; the border at the moment is a minefield for every type of crime you can imagine, not just smuggling or dissident Republicans on the rise, not forgetting human beings hidden in backs of lorries – human trafficking or slavery; drugs and the rest and yet Ballybofey, an important station did not have a squad car for nine months. You would need to contact the Muppet Show HQ to make any sense of this. Fred
Momentum to chaos: Who is watching the Watchers!
A rise in anti-social behaviour which culminated in an aborted social media-organised teen raid of a shop in Cork city on Friday night needs to be combatted by more Gardai on the ground, locals have urged.
There has been a marked rise in theft and looting over the last number of months around Cork’s main shopping district, according to the owner of three Centra stores in the city centre, Kevin Herlihy.
An anonymous call to action on Twitter last Friday resulted in a large number of teenagers congregating outside the JD Sports outlet on Patrick Street.
The post called on individuals to dress in black, wear balaclavas and meet at the nearby McDonald’s on Winthrop Street. The post also said: ‘You only have one minute to yam that shop.’
Around 100 youths allegedly arrived at the scene at around 6pm but Gardai had been alerted to the post circulating online and managed to foil any attempt to loot the store.
Mr Herlihy described pubs and shops in the area as ‘sitting ducks’ for criminals and he now forks out thousands annually to hire a private mobile security firm to prevent theft in his stores and, in some cases, threats and assaults against staff.
According to Mr Herlihy, who is also a spokesman for the Cork Business Association, there is huge concern among business owners at the lack of policing in the area.
He told Extra.ie: ‘There is zero police presence on the streets of Cork city. We’re experiencing a massive increase in anti-social behaviour. There is constant racial abuse against staff.
‘We have had to hire a mobile security company. They come to the store when there’s an issue because the response from the Gardai is just not up to standard.’
A number of publicans and shop owners have hired Cerberus Security to protect their businesses and staff, according to Mr Herlihy.
Local Fianna Fail TD Michael McGrath said: ‘It’s very concerning when a large group of youths can assemble in such a quick manner.’
When asked about increasing Garda numbers on the streets of Cork, a Garda spokesman said: ‘The local Superintendent has overall responsibility to combat crime in his/her area and will divert local resources to address any particular crime trends, and this will be constantly assessed and reviewed.’