herald

Sunday 11 December 2016

'Politics' being blamed for delay in setting up garda gangbuster unit

Frances Fitzgerald promised the new unit last February Photo: Fergal Phillips
Frances Fitzgerald promised the new unit last February Photo: Fergal Phillips

The new Garda Armed Support Unit for Dublin is still not up and running, nearly six months after being announced by Tanaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

The much-heralded unit was promised in February following the Regency Hotel gun attack in which several criminals armed with AK47 assault rifles stormed the premises and murdered David Byrne.

Hundreds of potential recruits are being interviewed this week by senior gardai, which could delay the deployment of the unit for at least another month.

It was initially reported that issues over a fitness test had led to the recruitment process being delayed, but it has since emerged that "politics" are being blamed instead.

"People who didn't do too well in the test were chosen for interview while others who did exceptionally well were overlooked. There was no reasoning to how certain candidates were picked over others," said a source.

Since the new unit was announced in February, a number of feud-related murders have been carried out in the capital.

In May, the minister promised that the 55-man squad would be functional by July at the latest.

However, a spokesman for Ms Fitzgerald said last night that the unit remains in the "planning stage".

"An Garda Siochana is currently in the process of establishing the Armed Support Unit (ASU) for the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR). This Unit is in the process of being set up and trained as a matter of priority," he said.

Overtime

"The purpose of establishing the ASU is to enhance armed support capability in Dublin and to free up the resources of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU).

The ASU will comprise five sergeants and 50 gardai.

"Additional equipment is also being acquired to equip the unit and to upgrade the equipment available to the ERU and the Special Detective Unit (SDU).

"In the interim, additional armed capacity has been provided through overtime working."

Meanwhile, three of the country's main organised crime units will have new senior gardai in charge of them from today.

Newly-appointed gardai will oversee the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI) and the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (DOCB).

The appointments are part of a shake-up within the force that has seen 48 promotions and transfers sanctioned by Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan.

The promotions and transfers, which come into effect today, will see Chief Supt Pat Clavin take control of CAB while Det Chief Supt Thomas Maguire will be in charge of the NBCI.

Det Chief Supt Jim McGowan, who is the husband of the commissioner, will head up the DOCB.

Major changes have also been made to the SDU, with one detective inspector and two detective superintendents being replaced within the armed squad.

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