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Former member It's time gardaí got some real support in tackling antisocial behaviour

Stephen Moore says he was horrified to see the attacks on gardaí on what he calls a night of shame for the capital.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 24th 2023, 11:55 PM

LIKE SO MANY Dubliners today, I woke up with feelings of disgust, shame, disappointment and anger.

I was a member of An Garda Síochána for almost 20 years and I served all my time in Pearse Street Garda Station. If I had not resigned earlier this year, I would have been standing shoulder to shoulder with my former colleagues as a riotous mob took to our streets, or if I was less fortunate, I could have been one lone guard placed in the horrible scenario of facing a mob by themselves on O’Connell Bridge.

This might sound strange to some, but it won’t to all ex-Gardaí, but I wish I had been there last night.

Let us not forget what led to this night of shame. A horrific attack took place in our city, heroes stood up and intervened and the emergency services arrived and did what they do – saved lives. The nation’s prayers and thoughts go out to all affected, and we wish them all a speedy recovery.

Mob rule

There was no excuse for what happened after this terrifying assault. Important evidence could have been compromised as a group of people mindlessly tried to enter and destroy a crime scene, as brave members of An Garda Síochána pushed them back. The early stages of last night’s riot reminded me of the Love Ulster riots in 2006.

I worked that day and I remember a mob taking control of the capital’s main thoroughfare; however, it wasn’t long until we took back the city and this was due to strong leadership.

Of most importance that day, the leadership said they would back up their orders and support gardaí.

Last night, as I watched many clips on social media, I saw gardaí take abuse, be assaulted and I did not see a plan. Many knew it was coming to this. People have been avoiding the city centre for years now, and why? It’s simple, it’s fear. If you walk into our capital city, you are quickly greeted with the impacts of alcohol and drug abuse on every corner and you will be lucky to see a garda on patrol. How did it come to this? How was a mob allowed to create havoc in the centre of our city for so long? How were expectant parents told to stay away from one of the city’s main maternity hospitals unless absolutely necessary?

When is enough enough?

When I took my first beat in Dublin City in 2004, I was content with the knowledge that if I came across an incident and needed assistance, it would be there in no time. This gave me confidence and a sense of security when carrying out my duties. Also, I was fully supported in my role to protect the public by strong leadership. Today, there is nobody to assist if a Garda member is in need, and if there is, they take longer to arrive. This is borne out by the number of assaults on gardaí increasing year-on-year.

A new era began during my time in An Garda Síochána (AGS), an era of oversight and fear. Fear to police the city and maintain law and order. Suddenly, if force is used of any kind — something we all have to acknowledge is needed in the middle of a riot when met with a violent mob — a report is required and a possible secondment to office duties is likely.

Paperwork has increased, and management support and supervision have decreased dramatically.

A new toxic atmosphere has been allowed to fester and gardaí feel alone. Every incident they attend in the city is being recorded by somebody with a smartphone, and the respect that was once the bedrock of the force’s relationship with the community is deteriorating. Nothing has been done by management to alleviate the fears of members of AGS or the public at large.

An Garda Síochána’s response to public disorder has shifted over time to one of tolerance. We have seen large groups of youths frighten communities in some areas of the capital since Covid. We have seen attacks at Dart stations and on delivery drivers and we were tolerant. We saw public disorder at anti-vaxx demonstrations, and we were tolerant. Normal, decent working people were impacted by a small group of anti-immigration protesters who stopped traffic at the Port Tunnel, the M1 and other major roads and junctions, and we were tolerant. People who came to Ireland to seek shelter have been humiliated and threatened, and we have been tolerant. Far-right agitators have been allowed to intimidate staff in libraries, and we have been tolerant. Politicians have been abused outside the Dáil, and we have been tolerant. When is enough, enough? I say now.

A great little country

The scenes in Dublin last night have gone around the globe and the reputation of Ireland is at stake. Like many, I want to walk safely through Dublin at any time, I do not want to see the scattered remnants of drug or alcohol abuse. I want to see gardaí, two at a time, on beat patrol. I do not want to see youths in groups intimidating tourists. If I’m honest, I don’t want to see any teenagers in the city after midnight. Why are they there? Is it time for some tighter restrictions? Why not?

Parents in my opinion have a lot to answer for. Roaming gangs of youths is unacceptable in any society. It is time to get real, make parents accountable for the behaviour of their children and force convicted youths to pay back through community service. Why not have them participate in the rebuilding of the communities they are destroying?

Speaking to people in the aftermath of last night’s violence, there is a real appetite to finally solve the anti-social behaviour plaguing our capital city. Is it time for a zero-tolerance approach? I believe so. The Government needs to change its current policy of tolerance and appeasement. Stop parading around the city streets claiming all is well. The judiciary needs to step up and garda management needs to call for it. Some people in our society believe that they can engage in whatever behaviour they want and there will be no consequences. This must change, and it must change now. A message needs to be sent that Dublin is a city of law and order and there are consequences for bad behaviour.

The Commissioner came out this morning and said AGS has enough members and resources. Who is he trying to persuade? I can say with certainty that this is not the case. A commissioner cannot just consistently side with his government and not with the brave, dedicated members of AGS. It’s a recipe for disaster. Now, it is time for him to listen, or maybe that time has passed, and the no-confidence motion the GRA membership voted on earlier this year must be revisited. Now is the time for strong leadership, there is no other choice.

I know the vast majority of Garda members are brave, dedicated and professional. I know the vast majority of gardaí are fed up: with upper management, with the lack of resourcing, with being treated differently depending on which way the wind is blowing. They need a firm commitment of support, they need to be resourced properly, they need strong leadership. And they need these things now. I have complete faith in the members of AGS and I know with public support and if allowed to, they will restore law and order once again to my city.

Stephen Moore is a former Garda and is founder of the Out of the Blue training.