Friday 30 September 2016

Gardaí missing out on basic details of terrorist threat

Published 11/04/2016 | 02:30

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan Photo: Steve Humphreys
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan Photo: Steve Humphreys

It is not the first time an organisation, whose members are involved in the fight against international terrorists, is wondering aloud whether they have the training to confront jihadi foes.

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Last autumn, Raco, the association representing officers in the Defence Forces, posed the question at its annual conference.

Now it is the turn of the AGSI, whose members are garda sergeants and inspectors. They want an immediate answer from the authorities. Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan will be in the hot seat when she addresses the AGSI conference in Westport tomorrow.

A big part of the problem for the AGSI is what they perceive to be a deficit of information about the nature of the enemy they face.

Incoming president Antoinette Cunningham told the Irish Independent their concerns arose from the failure of the garda authorities to circulate to members basic information on the threat level and how the danger could manifest itself here.

She said that information was confined to the specialist units and sections at Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park.

She wants an approach similar to that taken by the London Metropolitan Police on its website, which contains details for members on threat levels.

She says a proper briefing is particularly important for mid-ranking officers in areas like provincial airports and is also proposing an in-depth study of the capability of frontline personnel to counteract international terrorist and radical extremists,

Concern for safety is also behind another recommendation for all uniformed gardai to be issued with personal ballistic vests when on frontline duties.

This concern is heightened by recent incidents such as a feuding gang's use of assault rifles in the Regency Hotel in Dublin and last year's murder of Garda Tony Golden, while he was answering a call to a domestic dispute in Omeath, Co Louth. But it underlines a fear that has been growing in the past few years as criminals become better armed and behave more recklessly.

Financial worries will also dominate the conference agenda and, like many other publicsector workers, gardai feel they are not sharing in the country's recovery.

The association plans to become more pro-active in its campaign for a return to pre-2008 pay levels and will invite rank and file gardaí and retired colleagues to join them in a march on the Dáil on the first day of the new government.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald will not be attending the conference but other "authority" figures will be present, including Josephine Feehily, chair of the new Policing Authority.

For garda sergeants and inspectors, all is changing - except for their pay rates, and that could depend on how successful the new AGSI campaign will be.

Irish Independent

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