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'Criminals see us as weak': Gardaí want submachine guns available in rural areas

Garda representatives have said cross border criminals are not afraid to use guns and do not take gardaí seriously.

Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

GARDAÍ IN RURAL parts of the country are calling for submachine guns to be made available at district level so they are not left waiting hours for armed back-up.

Speaking to reporters at the annual delegate conference of the Garda Representative Association (GRA), Garda Brendan O’Connor who is based in Donegal, said there is a particular need for arms to be made available to local units in border areas as they deal with roaming gangs and dissident activity.

“Ten years ago gardaí could scramble armed units at local level, the Uzi was available at local district level. It wasn’t deal, but it was a deterrent,” he explained.

We have an incident now, an incident happens on the Northern side, there’s been an incident, we need a response on this side. What do we have? A couple of detectives with a side arm for personal protection and no tactical training. It’s just simply not up to the threat and the danger that’s there.

He said cross border criminals have access to arms and “aren’t afraid to use them”.

“Our members are extremely vulnerable on the border without proper backup. We had an incident a few years back where a guy had a sword in north Inishowen. There was no regional support unit operating in Inishowen so the unit that had been tasked would come from Dundalk but can’t come through the North so they had to go to Sligo and drive up, possibly five hours driving on a blue-light run. It’s just, it’s not working.”

We need a deterrent. Our members need the confidence to know when they stand on the road and put up their hand whatever is coming along, whoever that person is, feels there will be consequences to their actions.
Our members feel that criminals and the cross border drug dealers and people of a political persuasion, they don’t take us seriously. They don’t see us as having the capabilities to take them on. They see us as weak. They see us as we see ourselves. Untrained. Ill-equipped and not enough numbers.

An Garda Síochána has committed to providing 24/7 armed cover across the country. While he said this is welcome O’Connor said the fact that the specialist armed units cannot reach more rural areas in a short space of time means there has to be a “contingency solution”.

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He explained that with the old system, a garda with firearms training could be deployed with a long-armed weapon – like the Uzi submachine gun – at short notice to deal with the immediate danger until back-up arrived.

“It wasn’t perfect but it made perfect sense. We’ve an armed incident, we’ve tactically trained people on the way. They’re 45 minutes, an hour away. We can’t have an armed unit on every corner.

“But here we go, two gardaí locally can reach for their MP7 and be there on the ground to provide cover and protection for their colleagues. That’s all we’re asking for. We’ve a right to life just like everyone else.”

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