Sunday 20 January 2019

Assistant Garda Commissioner says loss of garda machine gun in city centre street an 'unfortunate incident'

Assistant Commissioner, John O'Driscoll speaking at a Garda briefing at Harcourt Terrace, Dublin. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 12/3/2018
Assistant Commissioner, John O'Driscoll speaking at a Garda briefing at Harcourt Terrace, Dublin. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 12/3/2018

David Fleming

An assistant garda commissioner has described an incident where a garda-issue M7 sub-machine gun apparently fell from one of their vehicles on to a busy city centre street as an "unfortunate incident".

Asst Comm John O'Driscoll said the incident was "regretted", before adding the incident is being investigated by GSOC. He made his comments this morning on RTE's 'Morning Ireland' programme earlier today while discussing the arrests of two men in an unconnected incident.

Mr O'Driscoll said efforts must be made to ensure something like this doesn't happen again.

"Well obviously any incident of that nature is regretted and every effort must be made to ensure that it doesn't happen into the future but it is an unfortunate incident and happens in an environment where every day of the week, including yesterday, members of the Garda Siochana are among those whose lives are threatened in having to deal with the activity that the criminals that we have to engage with are involved in.

" I think just like many cases before the gardai who were on the ground yesterday deserve credit for the hard work that they have engaged in and for the protection of so many lives and the prevention of death to people whose death was immanent potentially had they not intervened."

These are the first comments to be issued by a senior officer in relation to the incident which occurred last week.

There are now two investigations into how the gun and a large cache of bullets came to be discovered on a street in the capital.

It is understood a carrier bag fell out of the boot of an unmarked car, used by members of an elite garda specialist unit.

The bag was spotted on the ground by a woman, who then put it into her car and handed it over at a garda station 25 minutes later.

In the meantime, officers from the Armed Response Unit carried out a frantic search of the area where the bag had disappeared and checked with nearby garda stations before they learned it had been recovered and nothing stolen.

An immediate investigation into the incident was ordered by Det Chief Supt Gerry Russell, who is in charge of STOC (Special Tactics and Operations Command), to establish the circumstances in which the boot of the car opened and the bag fell onto the street.

A separate inquiry was launched by the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), which said it had become aware of the temporary loss of the sub-machine gun from an official garda vehicle through media reports.

In the absence of any garda notification or complaint from a member of the public, it said it had decided to launch what it called a public interest inquiry.

However, under the regulations there is no obligation on the force to inform the GSOC of such an incident unless the weapon has been discharged or somebody has been injured.

GSOC said it was concerned about the reports in the media and the apparent lack of security that these reports suggest.

"The commission is of the view that an independent investigation is necessary to ensure public confidence in the civilian oversight of policing in a time of increased armed gardai in Dublin city, in particular", the Ombudsman added.

The incident took place at 5.30pm on Tuesday. July 10th.

Three vehicles, including an Audi Q7, carrying two members of the Armed Support Unit, were leaving an underground car park at the garda complex at Harcourt Square in the south inner city. .

The gun fell out a short distance later, and was picked up by a woman who brought it to Store Street Garda Station in the north inner city.

When officers became aware of the missing weapon, gardai frantically searched the immediate area and also checked with local stations at Pearse Street and Kevin Street to find out if the bag had been handed in.

At 5.55pm they were told that the woman had put the bag into her car and drove to Store Street station, where she gave the bag to local officers.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said he was extremely concerned by the incident.

"I was informed yesterday evening of an incident in Dublin, where it appears a machine gun fell out of the back of a car and was handed in by a very civic-minded citizen into the gardai. So, luckily any danger was averted," he said, speaking to RTE.

"It is a matter of grave concern I'm very concerned about the issue; how it might have happened, how it did happen.

"I'm looking forward to an early report, but clearly something went wrong, something happened here that shouldn't have happened."

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