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Most rank-and-file gardaí have no tactical training to deal with armed criminals or terrorists

The Garda Representative Association has pointed out that unarmed gardaí are likely to be first on the scene, but have not been prepared for these dangerous scenarios.

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FRONTLINE GARDAÍ HAVE received no tactical training in relation to armed incidents or terrorist attacks, according to the Garda Representative Association (GRA).

President of the association Ciaran O’Neill said even some members who are trained in the use of firearms have received no tactical training.

He was speaking ahead of his association’s annual delegate conference, which starts this morning in Wexford.

“You are taught how to shoot a gun, how to hold a gun and how to handle a gun, but not any tactics around it. That is one of the biggest deficits. It is one of the issues in respect to training that we would be looking to be developed, because I can shoot a target or a piece of wood but I’m not taught how to duck or dive,” he said.

Members of the Armed Response Unit, the Emergency Response Unit and the Special Detective Unit all receive tactical training, but unarmed frontline members and detectives who carry firearms do not.

In the UK, all frontline officers receive this training and the O’Neill said this was demonstrated in recent terrorism incidents where unarmed officers were first on the scene.

“In this country we have a tendency that people are brave and will go straight into it, but they are not trained in the serious stuff,” said vice president Jim Mulligan.

He explained that there was “very basic” tactical training in Templemore previously, but that is “now gone from the agenda for some reason”.

Part of that was riot training. It was a very important week because they taught you what to do and what to expect, even clearing a house where you might have a firearm.

Interim deputy general secretary Robbie Peelo told reporters that in his more than 20 years of service, he has only had three continuous professional development classes.

By any stretch of the imagination that is not acceptable – not good enough. There is a vast array of legislation coming in on a yearly basis and we’re getting no more training than a HQ directive being put up on a garda portal and being advised to read it. That is not acceptable.

O’Neill also spoke about public criticism of gardaí who are involved in incidents where they have to make split second decisions. There was a social media backlash after the recent fatal shooting of Mark Hennessy, the man who abducted and murdered 24-year-old Jastine Valdez in Co Wicklow.

“It is quite easy for someone sitting in an armchair with a keyboard to be critical. Walk a mile in my shoes and then you will realise just how difficult the job can be and how stressful it is when you do have to make decisions because every member of An Garda Síochána on the street has to make a decision and they don’t know what it is going to be at the time,” O’Neill said.

Hennessy was shot in the shoulder and the bullet bounced off his collarbone and ricocheted into an artery, causing a fatal injury. The detective involved had fired just one shot. The Garda Síochána Ombudsman is currently investigating the incident.

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