Just 14 gardai on duty during night of attacks
Officers' fury as overtime ban left them vulnerable to 'organised disturbances' by gangs in city suburb
Published 06/11/2011 | 05:00
Only 14 gardai were on duty in a west Dublin district on Halloween night when violent organised disturbances resulted in Garda Linda Bury almost being killed and four other officers being injured.
Previously, during flashpoint Halloween nights, there had been a full complement of 40 gardai from Ballyfermot station on duty. But this year no overtime was allowed -- despite the fact that trouble was widely anticipated by gardai on the ground.
Gardai are now calling for mandatory imprisonment of people who assault officers or other members of the emergency services.
Cases involving assaults on gardai are climbing rapidly but most are dealt with by way of suspended sentence or -- in a case before Dublin District Court last week about two gardai who were bitten, drawing blood -- the Probation Act.
Mandatory imprisonment for assaulting police officers is in place in many jurisdictions but not here.
Gardai in Dublin said last week that it was only a matter of time before a garda was killed. In one station alone there has been one very serious threat to the life of a detective and other gardai have been followed home by known serious criminals.
Gardai are also investigating whether or not there is a link between a violent criminal gang in the Clondalkin area and a pipe-bomb explosion at the home of the parents of a garda detective -- whose brother is the RTE presenter Brian Ormonde -- last Sunday night.
The garda whose parents' home was attacked was closely involved in the arrest and successful conviction of the head of the gang three years ago. Another member of the gang was released from prison recently.
The front of the family home was damaged but no one was injured in the blast.
Colleagues said last week that Gda Bury had a "miraculous" escape as the 4X4 vehicle that struck her also hit a tree. The root ball of the tree came out of the ground and provided a barrier between her and the underside of the stolen Nissan Patrol. Otherwise she would have been crushed, they said.
Colleagues at first thought Gda Bury had been killed and seven of them managed to lift the vehicle and pull her free. She was described as looking "lifeless" and one of her colleagues present was deeply traumatised.
There is very considerable anger among gardai about the events and what is seen as a severe lack of resources allocated to cover the Cherry Orchard area even though there were signs of trouble ahead of last Monday night.
A number of bogus calls were received at the station earlier in the day, one claiming there was a man with a gun in Cherry Orchard.
"They were testing to see what our response would be so they would have an idea of what resources we would have that night," one officer said.
As it was, there were two cars available to patrol the Cherry Orchard area, a Ford Mondeo with close to 300,000 miles on the clock and a small Toyota Yaris which was rammed by another 4X4 vehicle shortly before the incident in which Gda Bury was struck by the second vehicle.
One of the gardai in the Yaris was injured and three others were hurt during the night of sustained and targeted violence against gardai.
Gda Bury was treated for cuts and injuries in St James's Hospital and was able to be discharged last Tuesday.
There was no garda public order unit response available in the area. The public order unit on duty in Dublin was deployed in Finglas where anticipated trouble failed to materialise.
The trouble in Ballyfermot was organised by local criminals who, gardai say, are intent on setting up a no-go area in Cherry Orchard.
The area has a history of violence towards both law-abiding residents and gardai. On Halloween 1995 gardai learned of another concerted attempt to kill or injure gardai and they mounted a major exercise involving up to a hundred gardai.
They also enlisted the help of Dublin City Council to put up concrete bollards on roads around Cherry Orchard to reduce dangerous driving by joyriders in stolen cars.
The criminals involved had hijacked a JCB digger with the intention of ramming and wrecking garda vehicles. However, this was intercepted and a local criminal arrested.
The lack of garda resources last Monday night is the result of a nationwide ban on overtime which has resulted in severe restrictions in policing services -- up to and including murder investigations.
Gardai in Dublin said that overtime had been available for "anyone who wants to work" at Halloween because of the tradition of violent disorder towards gardai and the emergency services but this was stopped this year because of cutbacks.
The combination of resource restrictions and mounting attacks on gardai is causing widespread concern in the force, particularly in busy Dublin stations in high crime areas. Several of these had been anticipating violence last Monday night.
In one northside station gardai were said to be on edge on both Sunday and Monday night expecting violence towards gardai because of the lack of extra resources.
One officer said there should now be mandatory imprisonment for anyone who attacks any member of the emergency services, including fire and ambulance crews who have also come under attack in the city.