Friday 17 November 2017

Senior gardaí pleaded for armed unit months before gang feud

Frances Fitzgerald Pic Steve Humphreys
Frances Fitzgerald Pic Steve Humphreys

Robin Schiller and Niall O'Connor

Senior garda management pleaded for an Armed Support Unit (ASU) in a security report that was communicated to the then government months before a deadly gangland feud erupted in the capital.

The Irish Independent has learned that senior gardaí carried out a security review for Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald in the wake of the Paris terror attacks last November.

Among the key recommendations were that an armed unit be deployed in the Dublin region to deal with terror-related threats in particular.

However, senior sources have claimed that Ms Fitzgerald effectively failed to act on the recommendation until after the deadly shootings at the Regency Hotel on Dublin's northside.

"It was made clear in 2015 - months in advance of it being announced by the minister - that this unit was desperately needed," a source told the Irish Independent.

A separate source said that the recommendation was discussed by departmental officials but no decision was taken to act on the recommendation by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan.

However, a spokesman for the minister insisted that the final draft of the report into security was not submitted until March and that the minister had responded "in the interim" by announcing the unit in February.

Read more: Task force to target organised crime nicknamed 'Dirty Thirty' by officers

The ASU was scheduled to be launched by July at the latest, but a dispute around the selection process has delayed its deployment.

A spokesperson for Ms Fitzgerald said: "There was ongoing contact between the department and An Garda Síochána in the light of a detailed review of security arrangements, which they were carrying out in the light of developments in relation to international terrorism and, in particular, the attacks in Paris.

"This culminated in a final submission to the department in March and the provision of extra funding as part of the additional €55m recently allocated to the Garda Estimate.

"In the interim, in early February, the minister met with the Garda Commissioner and other senior officers following a number of killings in Dublin.

"In the light of that meeting, she was in a position to announce funding for the establishment of an Armed Support Unit and an increased Garda presence prior to its establishment (the armed Garda presence had already been increased in the light of terrorist attacks).

"Of its nature, an armed response unit has a role to play in combating both terrorism and organised crime.

"In the circumstances, the minister was not in a position to make any announcement prior to that meeting."

Irish Independent

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