Monday 15 October 2018

A few gardaí at five-day course surely not issue in gang fight

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Tom Brady

Tom Brady

The motto of the international counter-terrorism course at the Curragh was 'Co-operation and co-ordination saves lives'.

The week-long exercise brought together representatives from military and police organisations from 15 countries, as well as emergency services, private security companies and potential commercial targets.

And they all co-operated to 'save lives' in a table-top exercise to combat attacks by terrorists on shopping centres and a transport hub.

Those who agreed to be interviewed were all satisfied that the exercise had been worthwhile. But one key cog in the security wheel was missing - An Garda Síochána.

Members of the force were invited to attend last month's course at the Army ordnance school, as they had been invited to attend previous exercises there, but they declined to do so.

In response to queries from the Irish Independent, the Garda authorities last night outlined their reasons for staying away. One excuse offered was operational commitments including to the ongoing feud between the Kinahan and Hutch gangs, which on Friday night claimed its 13th victim.

A handful of gardaí would have been required to attend. Even if they did not take an active part, they could have been present as observers. Their absence for five days would hardly have caused a resource problem in the fight against gang crime.

Perhaps they could have learned something from a study of 17 terrorist attacks over the past decade.

The course participants heard that the terrorists involved in the European attacks had minimal, if any, military training and were lightly armed or else used vehicles and knives. Yet they managed to tax the capacities of the security agencies "immensely".

The Garda rightly points out that it is the policing and security service of the State and the Defence Forces act in aid of the civil power. It also engages bilaterally with the military in training and scenario-based exercises and has other international training commitments.

It is, however, a pity if those commitments have at least twice prevented gardaí from attending the course.

One of the key issues being examined by the commission set up by the Government to take a close look at the force is whether it should continue to be responsible for security, as well as policing.

That knee-jerk proposal was put forward at the height of the Garda crisis. But on more mature reflection, that is likely to be rejected as international experience shows we are very lucky in this country to have a unitary force and it would be ludicrous to start dismantling it now.

But there may be some changes on the way and they could include a greater role for the military, particularly Army intelligence, with the gardaí and the military working to an oversight body, without interfering with the primacy of the Garda in operations.

Therefore it makes sense that the two organisations come closely together whenever possible in training exercises.

On the ground, there are excellent relations between the Garda Emergency Response Unit and the Army Ranger Wing, the two elite anti-terror groups. Taking part in future exercises can only copperfasten that.

Irish Independent

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