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Arming all gardai would be a step too far

J THE PERMANENT arming of garda regional support units for the first time is welcome – and long overdue.

The move comes in the face of the ongoing threat from organised crime and dissident republicans, which have led the Government to beef up these regional units.

The callous murder of Det Gda Adrian Donohoe almost a year ago is a grim reminder of the deadly danger faced by members of the force. This killing reminded people that the murder of an officer on duty is a terrible tragedy for the country at large. While permanently arming some uniformed gardai is a good move, it should stop there.

I do not agree with some commentators who see the move as the beginning of a plan to arm the entire uniformed force.

For 90-odd years, gardai have policed the country unarmed, often in very troubled times.

I can recall working during the 70s, 80s and 90s, when 12 gardai were killed in the line of duty, all by subversives.

I was involved in the investigation into eight of the murders. I recall that after each of them there came an inevitable call to arm gardai.

Thankfully the powers-that-be resisted such calls. I remain convinced that if the full force had been armed during the Troubles there would have been many more garda casualties.

Nonetheless if this country is to continue to enjoy the privilege of being policed by an mostly unarmed force we must continue to afford its members every protection.

The provision of permanently armed mobile response units will go a long way to guarantee public and garda safety. It's a commonsense step. But there's no need for arming any further.