Lives 'at risk' as gardai have to drive cars without sirens
GARDAI claim their lives are being put at risk because they are being forced to drive patrol cars without activating the blue lights or sirens.
The restriction has been placed on gardai, who have completed a one-day driving assessment course at the Garda College in Templemore.
This course, known as a CBD1, allows them to drive vehicles on routine duties when they do not have to use the sirens or blue lights.
But they say they are often confronted with emergency calls and feel under pressure to respond.
The annual conference of the Garda Representative Association in Killarney heard yesterday that they were putting their lives in danger because of the restrictions.
Dublin East delegate Ultan Sherlock said it was farcical as well as dangerous that gardai had to drive the vehicles in those circumstances and his division demanded a review of the training arrangements.
His colleague Jim Mulligan said gardai were faced with the threat of discipline if they used the blue lights but felt they had to respond if there was an emergency call to an incident nearby or they could be accused of ignoring it.
He said the training programme was not workable until adequate finances and resources were made available.
Ger Comerford, of Kilkenny Carlow division, said it was ludicrous that drivers should not have access to blue lights or sirens when on patrol.
But other delegates said the focus should be on forcing management to change how they handled drivers with restricted qualifications rather than on the CBD1 course.
A large majority of delegates backed the call for a review.
The conference also supported a demand for all gardai to receive tactical training on how to deal with firearms incidents and a familiarisation course in a range of weaponry they might encounter during their duties.
Mr Sherlock said they were not looking for training in the use of firearms for every garda but a course on how to respond to incidents where a gun or an improved explosives device might be involved.
He pointed out that uniformed gardai had in the past responded to incidents where guns were alleged to have been involved, rather than sealing off the area and waiting for the armed back-up to arrive at the scene.
In nine out of 10 calls, Dublin south central delegate Alan Cummins said, unarmed, uniformed gardai were the first to respond to emergency calls. They had no training in how to deal with those incidents and had no idea about best practice.
He pointed out that last year the Army bomb disposal unit had a total of 250 call-outs, with 80 of them relating to viable devices.
So far this year, there had been 51 call-outs with 23 of them involving viable devices and similarly in those incidents uniformed gardai responded without training or any clear guidelines on how to deal with them, Mr Cummins added.
Delegates also sought the right to wear operational shirts in the summer months without a neck tie.