Gardaí fear their unarmed status is leaving them vulnerable
Published 25/04/2016 | 02:30
Rank and file gardaí are concerned that the concept of an unarmed force is unsustainable in the face of rising violent crime and international terrorism.
They fear that cutbacks have left them increasingly vulnerable in the face of armed and organised criminals
Delegates at the annual conference of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) will discuss a motion from the Donegal Division which asks if it is "realistic" for An Garda Síochána to "maintain the concept" of continuing to be an unarmed force.
While similar motions regarding the arming of the force have been discussed and rejected by the GRA, garda representatives say that "attitudes are changing" amongst the rank and file.
"The murders of Adrian Donohoe and Tony Golden, as well as a general increase in violent attacks on gardaí means that attitudes are changing," said one GRA delegate.
"We no longer have the level of back-up that we require because of resource cuts, so how are our members expected to protect themselves when confronted by armed criminals when they are out patrolling on their own?"
The conference, which begins tomorrow in Killarney, will also highlight the "chronic lack" of 24-hour armed garda cover in most parts of the country and the fact that there are not enough frontline officers to provide an adequate service.
A joint motion from three garda divisions calls on the Justice Minister and the Commissioner to "immediately address" the shortages.
"The fact is that our work has become more dangerous because of how unpredictable and violent society has become and it is unacceptable that we have a chronic lack of armed units," said Cavan / Monaghan Division representative James Morrisroe, who is running for the position of GRA president.
"In the border areas there is a huge need for armed units because of the number of armed criminal gangs operating on both sides. In Cavan /Monaghan our numbers have dropped by 22pc and we cannot provide the public with the service it is entitled to.
"We have become a reactive police force as opposed to a proactive one," he added.
The rejection last week by rank and file members of a new working time agreement - which had been recommended by the GRA's central executive committee - is likely to dominate the agenda as part of an overall demand for the restoration of lost pay and conditions.
The new agreement, which sought to replace the current duty rostering system, was rejected by 68.8pc of members.
The GRA had negotiated the proposed changes with Garda HQ and the Department of Justice over several months. It was put to a vote of rank and file gardaí after the GRA central executive committee formally endorsed the deal by 23 votes to eight.
Outgoing GRA President Dermot O'Brien said that the central executive would take the result on board as the association look at the next steps in the campaign for better pay.
The rejection of the roster changes has been seen as an expression of anger towards the Government among the rank and file over cuts to resources.
Described by the Garda Inspectorate as "not fit for purpose", the current rosters involve gardaí working six 10-hour days followed by a recovery day and three rest days.
The roster changes necessitated dividing the already depleted four-unit system into five, with the result that every garda shift in the country is now seriously under-strength.
The lack of continuous training for rank and file officers will also be discussed at the conference.
There will be a call on the Commissioner to direct senior management to provide continuous professional development training every 12 months.