All Public Order Unit Gardaí are to be issued with tasers, the Garda Commissioner has announced.
This afternoon, Garda Commissioner was summoned to the Oireachtas Justice Committee to be questioned on the violence and chaos in Dublin city centre last week.
The Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has arrived at Leinster House.
He’s due to appear before the Oireachtas Justice Committee (1:30pm) to address the violence and disruption on Dublin’s streets last week. pic.twitter.com/OpbVDo0Gxj
— Barry Whyte (@BarryWhyte85) November 29, 2023
Commissioner Drew Harris told the Oireachtas Justice Committee today that the force’s senior management team has agreed on a range of measures to improve policing after last week’s Dublin riots.
He said all Gardaí will now carry pepper spray – and members of the Public Order Unit will carry tasers.
“[We will ensure there is] provision of stronger incapacitant [pepper] spray to all Gardaí and this stronger incapacitant spray is already provided to the Public Order Units and it’s already on supply to the Armed Support Unit and the ERU,” he said.
“[There will also be an] expansion of the Public Order Units capability with the provision of 200 tasers for deployment to Public Order Units, subject to successful training and accreditation.”
A controversial tool
Tasers, or electric stun guns, are used to fire a high voltage shock that temporarily disables a suspect.
Currently, only the Armed Response Unit carry tasers and Sinn Féin has previously opposed a proposal to give them to all members of the PSNI.
However, the Garda Representative Association has long favoured them and called for more members of the force to be trained in how to use them.
“They are a use of force and they have to be strictly controlled but other police services that we do compare ourselves to - like Scotland - would have tasers available at a district level,” GRA President Brendan O’Connor told Newstalk in July.
“So, in Ireland the only Guards carrying tasers are the members of the Armed Response Unit… the people you see in the big SUVs and the armed Gardaí.
“So, they’re available to use tasers and we would hope response times in urban areas would not be too bad.
“But in the country, places like Connemara, west Donegal, Kerry, Cork, even parts of the Midlands, you’re talking massive delays for the tasers to arrive on site.”
Justice Minister Helen McEntee has also asked the Policing Authority to confirm what level of force Gardaí are allowed to use in the course of their duties.
Speaking ahead of yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, Minister McEntee said she did not want Gardaí to feel as if they are “operating with their hands behind their backs".
“I do not want members of An Garda Síochána looking over their shoulder responding to these incidents where they feel that force is necessary, I want to them to have the confidence to respond in the way that they deem appropriate,” she said.
Her colleague Minister of State Patrick O'Donovan has also called for rioters to have their social welfare taken away from them.
Main image: A taser stun gun. Image: Alamy.com