Commissioner vows new armed unit will be in place by June
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan has insisted that a new Regional Support Unit (RSU) will be established in Dublin by June in response to the rise in gangland violence.
Speaking at the annual conference of the Garda Representative Association in Killarney yesterday, the Commissioner disagreed with rank and file delegates who said that it would be "optimistic" that the new heavily armed unit would not be operational by the summer.
However, she accepted that the new unit would not actually be up and running in two months' time, but would be "in training" by June.
She was responding to the double murders in Dublin on Monday night, in which senior dissident republican Michael Barr and minor criminal Thomas Farnan were gunned down in separate attacks.
Ms O'Sullivan said the gangland violence of recent months has been "traumatic" for the local community in Dublin's north inner city, which has so far witnessed three slayings connected to the feud between the Kinahan and Hutch gangs.
"This type of violence is traumatising for the communities as is the presence of armed police and we need a balance between the two," she said.
The Commissioner described the attacks as "horrific", but she defended the gardai's track record in tackling organised crime. She said: "Our approach to investigating organised crime is three-stranded; investigative, preventative and intelligence-driven.
"I am very aware of the trauma that this type of crime can have on local communities which do not support the perpetrators," she added.
"I am also very conscious of the effect of putting armed patrols on the streets of these communities and it requires a balanced approach."
The GRA's newly elected president, Ciaran O'Neill, said the two Dublin murders brought into sharp focus the problems facing gardai when trying to police the country and face down armed criminals.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that armed garda units were near the Sunset House when Barr (36) was gunned down.
Assistant Commissioner John O'Mahony said gardaí were on patrol in the city centre last night, and were in the vicinity of the Summerhill premises at the time of the fatal shooting on Monday.
"I think it is important to say that there are armed patrols on a 24/7 basis in the city," he said.
"An armed patrol was only around the corner from the shooting when it took place, and I think it is indicative of the challenges that we are facing that people are willing to go and commit a crime of this nature despite the presence or close presence of armed gardai."
In addition to the national and regional units patrolling the city centre, armed detectives in the Crumlin area have also been ordered to patrol on a 24/7 basis.
Assistant Commissioner O'Mahony also revealed that gardai foiled an attempted murder last week.
"There are obviously challenges, but on a regular basis we are preventing murders, and only last week in an incident we had to take preventative measures to a person who will probably never know that they were a target on that particular night."