Saturday 10 December 2016

Gardai powerless against campaigns to intimidate them on social media - GRA

Paul Williams

Published 26/04/2016 | 19:16

Outgoing GRA president Dermot O’Brien said that individual officers are being left powerless
Outgoing GRA president Dermot O’Brien said that individual officers are being left powerless

Thugs are offering money for personal information about gardai and also using social media sites to intimidate and threaten the lives of gardai, the Garda Representative Association has been told.

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Outgoing GRA president Dermot O’Brien said that individual officers are being left powerless in the face of orchestrated campaigns to target, bully and intimidate them on social media.

Mr O’Brien told the Garda Commissioner that her senior management have not made any efforts to defend the rank and file officers and he demanded the setting up of a social media protection policy for gardai who are being attacked on line.

“In the last ten years we’ve seen social media become a new weapon to attack us on Twitter and Facebook media. When social media is used to target, criticise, and bully our members some Garda Management have been lacking in openly defending us,” he told his association conference in Killarney.

“This is unacceptable when outrageous allegations can be levelled at us, money offered for personal information, threats made against us with little or no action being taken by Garda management.

“We are left powerless in the face of such social media campaigns. Action needs to be taken. There is a social media policy in place as to what we are not to do. However, no policy is in place to assist and help when we are attacked online.

“Management needs to urgently provide us with support guidance and most importantly of all, protection… We respectfully ask you as our leader that you speak up for the organisation and protect us when we are attacked in all sections of the media,” he added.

The conference also heard strong criticism of the Garda’s computer system which is 17 years old.

Mr O’Brien described the Garda IT system, Pulse as “collapsing at the seams with red traffic lights” and said it was “failing those it was designed to assist”.

“We are taking one step forward and two steps back with Pulse,” he said.

The Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan used her appearance at the conference as an opportunity to clarify confusing remarks she made about “invisible policing” when she spoke to the Policing Authority on Monday.

She said she was referring to Gardai who work behind the scenes, who sit at desks and analyse information and intelligence and who prevent, disrupt and reduce opportunities for crime.

Meanwhile the GRA says that rank and file officers who are the first responders at not trained to deal with armed incidents.

The incoming president Ciaran O’Neill who is a detective attached to the elite Special Detective Unit (SDU) said that the recent spate of gangland murders underlined the need for the strengthening of armed resources.

He also revealed that uniformed gardai have not received tactical training in the last thirteen years and are expected to respond to armed incidents armed “with an asp, pepper spray and a stab proof vest” which is useless if a garda is shot at.

Meanwhile the newly elected vice president, Detective Garda James Mulligan, said that there was a chronic lack of equipment such as tasers and firearms.

The GRA said that 800 gardai are due to retire in the next year while only 600 are being recruited representing a net loss of 200.

Delegates also revealed how personnel levels in every specialist unit in the country has been allowed to drop by at least 20 per cent and management was accused of dragging its heels in addressing the issue.

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