Gardaí seek guidelines on their role at evictions
Mid-ranking gardaí have called on their commissioner to publish a policy document outlining guidelines on how they should perform their role at forced evictions.
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) is also seeking training for its members on dealing with incidents where they were "stuck in the middle" between the sheriff and his agents and those being evicted.
Gardaí are becoming increasingly concerned about their role in the wake of highly publicised incidents in Dublin and Strokestown, Co Roscommon, in recent months.
Association national executive member Paul McDermott, from Roscommon-Longford division, told the AGSI annual conference yesterday that it needed a set of standard operating procedures in place to provide clarity about duties at evictions.
He said those incidents were particularly problematic for gardaí in rural areas where members were embedded in their community and the difficulties they faced increased if they knew those involved.
"It's a complex issue, our role is to be there to make sure a breach of the peace does not occur.
"We should have adequate notice about when these events are taking place to allow us to plan for them.
"The sheriff provides us with a copy of the court order but there should be an operational plan, taking account of the health and safety involved," Mr McDermott added.
Meanwhile, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said the row that has created a rift in the leadership of the AGSI is affecting the overall Garda organisation. He said the allegations that had been made concerning a member of the association were being treated very seriously and must be given due process.
He trusted the association and its members, he added, and when a conclusion was reached, he hoped the issue could be resolved in terms of not only the association but also An Garda Síochána.
Mr Harris told reporters he was precluded from commenting on the specifics of the case but he said the allegations were being dealt with expeditiously and he hoped he would soon see "the papers" in respect of that. He hoped to study those papers carefully and make an objective decision based on them.
"The question of discipline in an organisation, particularly a policing organisation, is a very important one," he said.
Asked about his security arrangements, which resulted in armed PSNI officers taking the commissioner across the Border and driving into Garda headquarters in their vehicle, Mr Harris said he was satisfied that they were in line with the protocols that had been in place for the past six years.
"Regrettably because of the lifestyle, threats have been imposed on me and because of this I receive security. It is not a position that one would volunteer for but at the same time does directly relate to my security and that of my family," he said.