Arming gardaí 'an issue force constantly assesses'
Assistant Commissioner says terror threat justifies debate
One of the country's most senior garda officers has said some of the recent events across Europe have brought into sharp focus the question of whether the force should be armed.
Assistant Garda Commissioner John O'Mahony said the issue of our predominantly unarmed force was constantly assessed and the majority of officers agreed with the status quo.
But he said the question of whether all officers should be armed was one that would have to be addressed again in the future.
"It's a very deep question. There is a decision to be made for our future by our community and by our population as a whole as to what sort of police force we need," he told the MacGill Summer School.
"Whether we need an armed police force or whether we traditionally retain the police force that we have where our uniformed force are largely unarmed. It's something obviously that we look at and we look at on a regular basis and we assess."
The garda chief indicated that it was his preference to keep officers unarmed and he said there were units within the force that carried guns.
"Certainly, from my own experience - and I have 39 years' experience in policing - is that my own preference and my own experience in the organisation - I know that there is still a large support that we do retain the fact that we are not carrying firearms.
"But it is open, it's a constant topic of discussion.
"It's a question again obviously with what's happening in the rest of Europe."
During a debate on terrorism, he said that there remained a "potent residual threat" from dissident republican elements, which required significant resources and ongoing garda attention.
Also speaking in Glenties, the head of Europol Rob Wainwright said it was vital that the Government updated its interception laws, a pledge already made by Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.
"I think there is a bit of a vacuum in the law and a vacuum in how we deal with that in society, as these countries move more and more to Ireland as Ireland becomes a data hub," he said.
"The solution is not easy because when we are talking about encryption - encryption is really a desirable thing to have in society absolutely.
"But we have to deal with the implications of the fact some nay-doers in society abuse those very powers to undermine privacy interests we are seeking to protect in the first place," he added.
Mr Wainwright said Ireland was not in the firing line of terrorists.