Garda Representative Association warns gardai need guns to fight armed gangs
The GRA is concerned at leaving frontline officers exposed before armed rapid response units are in pl
Armed detectives are still needed in the war on feuding gangs and to protect remote areas, it has been warned.
The Garda Representative Association said the firearms would be required until every part of the country has its own armed support unit.
Vice-President Frank Thornton was responding to revelations that thousands of weapons are being withdrawn from frontline officers.
Force chiefs want to take the guns out of the hands of local detectives and rely on specialised armed support units instead.
There are 2,776 armed Gardai according to reports – down from 3,778 last year.
A review found many of the armed officers were behind desks or doing immigration and cybercrime work and never used the weapons except during training.
- Garda Armed Response Unit can take up to three hours to get to violent incident, according to claims
It is planned to further reduce numbers by the end of this year.
Senior management strategy is to have 13 rapid armed response units around the country with 378 officers.
However, the GRA is concerned at leaving frontline officers exposed before those units are in place.
There are currently numerous gangland feuds raging in Dublin, Drogheda and Limerick. Drogheda has seen a shocking upsurge in gun violence including the mutilation and murder of 17-year-old Keane Mulready Woods.
That killing led to the revenge shooting of mobster Robbie Lawlor which was carried out in Belfast on the orders of a Coolock criminal.
Gardai have also foiled 75 hits in the ongoing Kinahan-Hutch feud including an elaborate nine-man plot to kill Patsy Hutch.
Mr Thornton said: “The GRA has long-argued for an Armed Support Unit in every division.
“Until that happens, then we need to have armed detectives with better tactical training to support frontline members in dangerous situations.
“While crime rates are falling under many headings, gardai are being subject to more incidents of armed threat.
“Armed drugs gangs are feuding in several regional towns and their activities reach out into surrounding areas.
“We are particularly concerned about rural divisions where members are very vulnerable. We have seen incidents where the Armed Support Unit is three hours away.”
Mr Thornton raised fears about the rise in right-wing extremists who target gardai on duty.
He said: “The Commissioner has also warned about the rise of right-wing extremism which often comes with a violent anti-police bias. 76516486337
“While fast response to armed incidents helps protect members, it is also a public safety measure too.”
A review last year found there were as many armed officers as at the height of the Troubles, a rise put down to the expansion of armed units but also promotions to detective rank.
Critics point out that local detectives receive less training than specialists and sometimes never use firearms.