We are losing our ability to combat gangs, warn gardaí
The Garda force is losing its ability to tackle the rising threat posed by organised crime because of a chronic shortage of resources, senior security sources have warned.
Internal garda documents marked 'secret' which have been shown to the Irish Independent demonstrate the extent to which the lack of resources is reducing the Garda organisation's ability to tackle major crime.
The documents show how every garda unit, including all uniformed, detective and specialist units, are currently operating at an average of 20pc below strength.
Earlier this week, the Irish Independent revealed how the National Surveillance Unit (NSU), which secretly monitors the movements of gangland and terrorist suspects, is "dangerously" understaffed.
The number of personnel in the NSU, which plays a vital part in targeting serious crime and terrorism, has dropped by 25pc since the start of the austerity programme.
Sources revealed that the unit urgently needs at least 24 officers to bring it back to its required strength of around 100 operatives.
Garda management are now said to be "very concerned" that the rank-and-file members may vote against accepting new work rosters to replace the existing one - which was blamed for exacerbating the personnel shortage on the streets.
Under the current system, the existing four-unit shift system, was further split to cover a five- unit system.
This has had a deep impact on a force which had already seen a drastic drop in numbers due to early retirements and a recruitment ban.
The documents confirm that personnel levels in the specialist units attached to the Technical Bureau - which are vital for the investigation of serious crime - are now reaching "crisis point".
There is also a chronic shortage of expert forensic officers in the areas of ballistics, mapping, finger prints and photography.
But senior managers have been "lectured" on the need to "avoid mentioning anything about resources" when talking to public groups or the media.
They have been instructed to repeat that 300 new garda recruits have been assigned to stations and another 300-plus are in training.
The brief also informs senior officers to impress the number of new squad cars, a new Regional Support Unit and investment in IT across the organisation.
One senior source told the Irish Independent: "We are genuinely losing the ability to tackle organised crime gangs and any terror threat, but there is no will to make this public.
"It was a source of serious embarrassment to the entire organisation that we had to depend on the media for photographs from the Regency Hotel attack.
"The comments made by the AGSI (Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors) during the week were a true and accurate reflection of what has been going on," the source added.
Delegates at the conference demanded that bullet-proof vests be supplied to all frontline officers as crime gangs, especially those involved in the Kinahan-Hutch feud, have shown that they have no fear of encountering gardaí.
And in the event of an attack by Islamic State terrorists, frontline officers have been given no training or intelligence reports on the threat levels or how to respond to them.
AGSI president Tim Galvin accused Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan of putting the corporate image of the organisation before the welfare of the frontline gardaí.
Commissioner O'Sullivan has hit back at these claims and pointed out that investment in the force has restarted in earnest.