Defence Forces are last resort in Garda strikes
Published 03/10/2016 | 02:30
Ireland will not be turned into a military-controlled State should the rank and file members of the Garda force decide to press ahead with their threatened series of one-day strikes next month.
Deployment of personnel from the Defence Forces on the streets of the nation is seen as a last resort.
One of the primary tasks set out for the military is to act as an aid to the civil power. In other words, they can be requested to assist by the Garda authorities.
However, the duties they perform have been clearly defined up to now, given the limited policing powers available to them.
During the Troubles, the army was regularly on call to provide armed back-up for uniformed gardaí at checkpoints along the Border on a daily basis and during major searches for Provisional IRA and dissident republican gangs.
Soldiers have also been used to provide protection for cash-in-transit vans, to monitor the movement of explosives and keep armed guard on key installations such as Portlaoise Prison, which holds terrorist prisoners.
Bomb disposal units are also called out regularly by the Gardaí.
However, all this is a far cry from patrolling the streets and dealing with day-to-day duties.
It is hoped that sufficient members in specialist units will be able to remain on duty in case of a serious terror or crime-linked operation.
The measures to be adopted by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan - in consultation with her senior advisers and Department of Justice officials - to ensure the safety of the community should the strikes go ahead have not yet been determined.
Speculation about contingency plans remain as a number of factors have yet to be sorted out before firm decisions can be taken.
The Garda Representative Association(GRA) has yet to indicate how many personnel will be exempt from the strike and for what duties.
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors has not voted on whether its members will participate in the action.
All non-essential duties will be cancelled during the four planned strike days.
However, in the short term the primary focus will still be fixed on working out a formula to settle the dispute through negotiation and eliminate the need for the GRA to press the nuclear button.