'unnecessary' | 

Arming all gardaí would be ‘a step too far,’ says General Secretary of the AGSI

‘The current ethos of An Garda Síochána is that we are an unarmed police force who police with the consent of the people’

Armed gardaí outside the Special Criminal Court© PA

Maeve McTaggartSunday World

Senior members of An Garda Síochána have pushed back against Tánaiste Leo Vardakar’s claims that he “would absolutely say yes” to the question of arming gardaí.

“I certainly wouldn’t do anything to block that if [the Garda Commissioner] felt that was the right approach,” he told the Irish Mail on Sunday.

The Tánaiste said it was not a decision for politicians to make but the Garda Commissioner, later adding: "People don’t feel as safe on our streets, and even in their homes as they did previously.”

Speaking on Newstalk this morning, Antoinette Cunningham, the General Secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) said the move is “unnecessary.”

“The current ethos of An Garda Síochána is that we are an unarmed police force who police with the consent of the people.

"While we do have specialist armed units within the organisation itself, I think going from a relatively unarmed police force to a totally armed police force is probably a step too far.

“I think it’s unnecessary.”

When speaking on the issue of rank and file members of the force being armed, Mr Varadkar also said he believed body cameras should be rolled out.

"That's very much a decision for the Garda Commissioner rather than for a politician," he told the Irish Mail on Sunday when asked about arming gardaí.

"But certainly if the Garda Commissioner came to me or came to the Minister of Justice and said, 'We think that we need guards to be armed, or that we need more guards to be armed', well, then I would, absolutely, say yes.

"But that should be a call for the commissioner and his team rather than politicians. But I certainly wouldn't do anything to block that if he felt that was the right approach."

The Tánaiste’s comments come as a new pilot project to crackdown on crime in the capital has been announced.

Money seized from criminals will go towards new ‘community wardens’ tasked with tackling anti-social behaviour in Dublin’s north inner city.

To start with, these wardens will patrol the Wolfe Tone Square, Capel Street and Jervis Street areas, the Independent Chair of the North Inner City Local Community Safety Partnership told Newstalk Breakfast last week.

“It is really important to stress this is a non-enforcement role,” said Cormac Ó Donnchú.

The wardens will not replace gardaí and will instead take on “observing and reporting.”

This would include anti-social behaviour and issues like waste management, lighting and road maintenance.

Mr Ó Donnchú compared the job with “park wardens” who would report on crime.

The wardens are about to be appointed, he revealed and their uniforms are currently being designed.

The pilot project is being funded by the Community Safety and Innovation fund, taken from the proceeds of crime.

In October, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee announced that a total of €2 million seized in criminal raids would go towards the fund.

She said the fund “reflects the successes of An Garda Síochána and the Criminal Assets Bureau in identifying and seizing the ill-gotten gains of criminals” in Ireland.

She added that people across the country are “working tirelessly” in their local areas to “prevent crime from taking hold” and make their communities safer.

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