Sunday 30 April 2017

Gardaí told to scale back highly visible armed patrols

Armed officers may be seen less at our airports
Armed officers may be seen less at our airports
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Armed garda patrols which began at Dublin Airport last year are to be scaled back, the Irish Independent understands.

The newly established Armed Support Unit (ASU) has been carrying out routine visits to the airport amid heightened fears of a terrorist attack.

An EU security directive seeking to boost airport protection was issued following the Brussels Airport attack last March, which saw 32 people killed by suicide bombers.

The ASU, which was publicly launched in December, was tasked with providing an armed response and has a base in a disused building at the complex.

Sources say members of the unit would regularly carry out visible patrols of the airport in co-operation with Airport Police.

It is understood that the unit has also undergone extensive training at the airport, although its main role is to assist gardaí to counter the ongoing gangland feud between the Hutch gang and the Kinahans in Dublin.

"The patrols were working well and there was good communication with the Airport Police who were happy to see them on site," a source said.

However, it is understood there was some unease with the overt presence of heavily armed officers in the airport.

The source noted that last week a directive was issued to reduce the patrols.

A Garda spokesperson failed to respond to queries on the issue.

The Department of Justice said: "The deployment of operational policing resources, such as the garda armed response capability, is a matter for the Garda Commissioner."

ASU officers are armed with Heckler and KochMP7 submachine guns as well as non-lethal equipment such as pepper spray and tasers.

At its launch, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan said the force had a proud tradition of being unarmed but needed to "recognise that the challenges we face today are different from the challenges we faced before".

Irish Independent

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