An extra 250 gardai to be recruited within six months

Gardaí haven't had tactical firearms training in 15 years

A motion to increase the number of armed gardai was backed at the conference

Tom Brady

AN extra 250 gardai are to be recruited within six months.

According to RTE News, the Government has already approved the move - and justice minister Frances Fitzgerald will confirm details at the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) conference in Co Meath later this morning.

It is expected that the new recruits will enrol in the Garda College in Templemore in two groups of 125.

The AGSI has been calling on the Government to ensure that the number of garda does not fall below 13,000.

Meanwhile, gardai have claimed that local detectives are being sent onto the streets to cope with armed incidents without any tactical training.

The last course in the tactical use of firearms was held in the Garda College 15 years ago, the AGSI conference was told.

And front-line garda supervisors fear the lack of training is putting detectives' lives in danger.

The annual AGSI conference yesterday unanimously backed motions to increase the number of gardaí who are properly trained and qualified to carry firearms.

Delegate Michael Hogan said he did not want to see the Garda becoming an armed force but they had to be realistic.

In any part of the country, day or night, a garda could be faced with an armed incident, involving criminals, who had scant regard for the law.

"Criminals do not appear to have any difficulty obtaining illegal firearms. They are brought into the country illegally and often included in drug shipments as sweeteners to the deal.

"With a stolen high-powered car, they have no problem travelling to any part of the country to commit crime and we, as a force, should have the capacity and capability to deal with this threat.

"Unfortunately, this is not the case," he added.

Mr Hogan said members of the regional support units (RSUs), set up in 2008, were highly trained and did a superb job.

He said he was based in Granard, Co Longford, and the units for his region were located in Claremorris in Mayo and Salthill in Galway, both a long way from Granard.

The nearest RSU unit was based in Mullingar but it covered the eastern region and could be in Kilkenny on duty.

He said the RSUs stopped work at 4am and if there was an armed incident after that, there were insufficient armed detectives in many areas to provide cover.

Mr Hogan said every regular garda unit in districts around the country should be able to immediately call on armed trained and authorised gardaí, should the need arise.

This would require finance but money should not be an issue. A core function of the Garda was the protection of life and this must include garda lives as well.

Cork city delegate Danny Coholan, who is a member of an RSU in the southern region, said local detectives carrying firearms were regularly tasked with providing close protection for VIPs, witnesses and persons under threat but did not have the training for that work.

"Following an increase in gangland and feuding activity, the standard response is to increase armed patrols. Those patrols are carried out in the absence of tactical training or access to greater levels of firepower or less lethal weapons".

Mr Coholan said there was an on-going operation at night in Dublin and Cork city where armed cover up to 7am was usually provided by two detectives, in the absence of RSU or emergency response unit personnel.