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“Twenty-seven years I carried a gun, I never had to use it”: Disarming the Garda

An Garda Síochana have reduced the amount of members carrying firearms following a review in 2019 by the Policing Authority Ireland, as the force moves towards a model of having specialist armed response as their main firearm unit. Jonathan Kelly explores the relationship between the Garda and arms.

Photo taken by Sean MacEntee. Sourced from Flickr.

According to figures released by the Garda Ombudsman (Gsoc), armed Gardaí have fired their weapons on only 16 occasions since 2016, with accidental discharge accounting for a third of incidents. Last June, a detective guarding the Israeli embassy in Dublin accidentally shot himself in the leg.

“That could happen in an emergency, a fella taking his gun out and the damned thing going off. Lucky no one was killed,” Mr. Michael Mangan, a recently retired detective said. “For 27 years I carried a gun, I never had to use it though.”

“I withdrew it a couple of times in very dangerous situations but lucky enough I never had to use it” he added.

The 2019 review found more than a quarter of the force, 27% or 3,778 members carried a firearms authorisation card. The Policing Authority found many of them were working desk jobs and non-frontline areas. More than 1,000 cards have been revoked to date, with now 19% or 2,776 of the force armed.

Mr. Mangan said, “I wouldn’t agree with uniform people (Garda) being armed, I think guns should be carried by detectives though,” when asked about a fully armed police force.

When the City spoke to some members of the public, the majority of people revealed they would feel less safe if all Gardai were armed. One of the respondents wrote: “Naturally I’d feel nervous, there’s always a few bad eggs in every bunch.”

However, only half of the respondents agreed with reducing the number of armed Garda. “I’m proud that the Irish are one of the only countries in the world with an unarmed police force,” another replied. 

According to Gsoc, Gardaí have used tasers on 125 separate occasions over the last five years. Taser guns are currently only available to specialist units such as the Emergency Response Unit, the Armed Support Units and Special Detective United, although consideration is being given to arm all frontline Gardaí with them. Less than half of the respondents would be in favour of such a move.

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