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TD Pa Daly.
Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin Justice spokesman says plans for more tasers a 'band-aid' solution to Gardaí woes

TD Pa Daly said that he does not think bulking up on heavy equipment is a “long term solution”.

SINN FÉIN’S SPOKESPERSON on Justice has said that Garda Commissioner Drew Harris’ plans to equip public order gardaí with tasers in future riot type situations is a “quick fix, band-aid solution to a systemic problem”. 

Speaking to The Journal, Daly said that although he thinks there is a use for tasers within “specialised, highly trained garda units,” he believes that it should not be the case that any garda “on the beat is armed with a taser”. 

Appearing before the Justice Committee this week, Drew Harris said that stronger pepper spray and 200 additional tasers would be made available to Gardaí who have completed public order training, who will be involved in policing any future riots. 

In response to TDs who grilled him about the policing of the riots and looting that took over Dublin city centre last week, Harris also said two additional water cannons would be procured after a business case is put together. 

Daly said that, in general, “tasers are not the way forward” and that Harris needs to address “wide-ranging problems within An Garda Síochána, with recruitment and retention being the most pressing”. 

The Kerry TD said that after Harris’ committee appearance, there are “unanswered questions” about how intelligence on far-right actors organising the riots via public online platforms was collected last Thursday, and how that was communicated to Gardaí. 

“We don’t know if gardaí were monitoring these accounts and networks, and passing that information on to local stations and superintendents. The review needs to show what the communication structure here is, so we can understand what went wrong,” he said. 

Daly added that in his view it is “not good enough” for Harris to have told the Justice Committee that it is not possible for gardaí to monitor all of the public social media networks that people involved in organising rioting use going forward. 

“We could all see what was going on on our iphones. After Thursday, we need to know that this is being followed and monitored, and fully investigated. The Commissioner has characterised the riot as unexpected, but if gardaí were monitoring this online activity, it could have been anticipated,” he said.

Daly said that gardaí who were deployed into Dublin city centre to try and break up the riots have told him that they didn’t have enough incapacitant spray at hand. 

“That is a simple thing. These sprays are not hard to get, compared to other equipment like the body worn cameras, these are the types of supplies that gardaí should have on hand,” he said. 

He also claimed that the Garda Commissioner’s “refusal to acknowledge” that control of Dublin City was “lost”, and command and control within the gardaí “broke down” last Thursday is “just not credible”. 

The TD said that he recently visited Templemore College, and that his conversations with new recruits made the need for a retention taskforce doubly clear, as well as upgrades to current training facilities. 

“Just over 700 garda will have passed through the college this year. That puts us behind the target of 1000. We need to do more to recruit, and retain those recruits in the next year. 

“The organisation cannot run on overtime, and while an increased Garda presence in Dublin is welcome, we don’t know how long that will last for, especially after the Christmas season finishes,” Daly said. 

“It’s not just an issue in Dublin, people have complained about the lack of a garda presence in Killarney on a Saturday night as well, where more numbers are needed too,” he added.

Sinn Féin has tabled a motion of no confidence in the Justice Minister Helen McEntee, which TDs will vote on next week. 

Daly said that the Government and the Minister have “not listened to communities and businesses who don’t feel safe and have said that they don’t feel safe”.

He added that new leadership in the Gardaí, and within the Department of Justice, is needed for a new course to be steered.