Garda top brass call for increase in full-time armed patrols
A CONTROVERSY over arming more gardai is set to erupt today when supervisors call for more full-time armed patrols.
Gardai are to call on Commissioner Fachtna Murphy to deploy members of the regional support units on armed patrols on a full-time basis.
These specialist groups, which were set up to provide a speedy response to major incidents, operate normally as unarmed and uniformed gardai but can switch instantly into tactical dress if ordered to respond to a major alert.
This involves pulling on a zip-up jacket over the uniform, and arming themselves with weapons.
Each unit has an initial strength of 24 officers but this can be modified, depending on local demand.
However, the annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), which gets under way in Galway this evening, will hear a call to abandon the uniformed duties and remain armed round the clock.
A conference motion, already backed by delegates from five divisions, says the proposal is in response to an increase in armed violence and also for the safety of gardai.
The first unit has been in operation in the southern region, mainly in action in Limerick and Cork, for the past 18 months.
A second unit has since been created in the eastern region and based in Mullingar and Newbridge.
A third unit for the western region is due to be launched shortly and eventually all five regions outside Dublin will have one. About one in four gardai, almost 3,500, are authorised to carry firearms on duty although many do not carry weapons on a regular basis.
The debate on the motion is expected to create a split among the delegates with the national executive likely to come out against the proposal.