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Friday 24 January 2020

Up to 1,500 uniformed and armed gardaí needed to protect Pope visit

Pope Francis
Pope Francis
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Robin Schiller

Robin Schiller

Around 1,500 uniformed and armed gardaí will be required to police Pope Francis' visit to Dublin next month, senior officers have said.

The significant operation for the Pontiff's two-day visit will see more than half of the gardaí in the Dublin region working up to 18-hour shifts.

Garda management expect in the region of 600,000 people to attend the World Meeting of Families event in the Phoenix Park on August 26.

Specialist officers, including the Armed Support Unit (ASU) and Garda Dog Unit, will also be required to police the significant event.

Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy, who has responsibility for policing in the Dublin Metropolitan Region, said that an additional budget is available to fund the garda operation for the Pope's visit, and that it will not affect ongoing operations.

The senior garda added that safely moving the large crowd to and from the Phoenix Park will prove the largest challenge.

"There will be a significant movement of people. We have a slow burn entry for a number of hours throughout the day, but the exit strategy will prove quite challenging.

"My understanding is that night time will be in and around 8.30pm, so moving people out of the park and onto buses safely will be a challenge for all concerned," AC Leahy said. "In terms of finance and cutting overtime... there is a budget for the Pope's visit and we have financial managers working with us. It is not having an impact on current overtime."

Pope Francis will be in Ireland for less than 36 hours between August 25 and 26, with his agenda including visits to meet President Higgins at the Áras, the Capuchin Day Centre and Phoenix Park.

Garda management will use some 200 recruits from the Garda Training College in Templemore to assist in the event.

AC Leahy said that between 1,200 and 1,500 guards will be required to police the Pontiff's visits to Croke Park and Phoenix Park, with a possibility that officers will be required to work 14-18 hour shifts.

The assignment of 1,500 gardaí to Pope duty means that about one-third of the officers in the capital will be working to accommodate the visit.

He was speaking at Dublin City Council's joint policing forum, chaired by Fianna Fáil councillor Daithi de Roiste, where a number of items were discussed including the Pope's visit and the garda response to organised crime.

Irish Independent

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