herald

Monday 11 December 2017

Cuts leave us open to a Norway-style massacre -- gardai

GARDA budget cuts leave Ireland vulnerable to a massacre on the scale of Norway's Utoya atrocity, officers have warned.

Rank-and-file gardai insist the planned financial measures will lead to more shootings.

They cited the murder of 69 people by Anders Behring Breivik last July in Utoya or the 1996 Dunblane tragedy in which 16 children were shot dead as the types of disaster which could happen in Ireland.

Garda Representative Association (GRA) chief PJ Stone said every parent fears the "kind of incident that became synonymous with Dunblane".

"The massacre in Norway last year could easily have happened here, it only takes one gunman," Mr Stone added.

He said officers need armed capability "even if it is never used".

Mr Stone insisted there is "a great potential for firearms incidents".

Among the measures under consideration by the Department of Justice is to reduce the number of firearms available to gardai, cutting costs by €2.7m a year.

But Mr Stone said: "Our Government remains focused on the cost of everything and value of nothing."

He added that Justice Minister Alan Shatter has "announced the greatest gamble of all, to raise the prospect of gun crime by reducing the deterrent by more than 70pc to make savings of €2.7m".

Mr Stone said: "A bookmaker would give poor odds on success. Every armed robber will be delighted to hear the probability of an armed response has been reduced to less than a third of its previous odds."

As with most publicly funded bodies, the garda is operating with reduced budgets.

A series of stations are to close across the country, while the force's fleet is not being replaced at the same rate as previous years.

A total of 71 marked patrol cars were withdrawn in the last six months of 2011 -- after reaching the 300,000km limit -- and no new cars were purchased to replace them.

In addition, more than 30 garda stations are to be closed this year following a €79m budget reduction.

The opening hours of another 10 stations are being pared back and eight others will not reopen.

comurphy@herald.ie

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