Fears patrol cars could be left with no drivers to respond to 999 calls
There are major concerns that gardai will not be able to send cars on some 999 calls after management said only those who have completed certain training can drive them.
Until last week, many gardai had been using what is known as "chief's permission" to drive patrol cars on their own private licences and use flashing lights and sirens when required.
Outside this system, gardai have to undergo Competency Based Driver (CBD) tests to drive garda vehicles.
CBD Level 1 training is a one-day course of basic training that allows a garda to drive a patrol car, but they are not authorised to use flashing blue lights or sirens and cannot exceed the speed limit.
CBD Level 2 is a three-week course that allows gardai to use sirens and lights and engage in high-speed pursuits.
Not enough officers are trained to CBD 2 level, so An Garda Siochana had been using chief's permission to allow gardai to carry out their job effectively.
In a directive last Thursday, seen by the Herald, such permission was revoked with immediate effect.
"Chief Superintendent's auth- orisation to garda personnel to drive particular classes of official vehicles under Section 35.2 of the Garda Code Volume 1 is revoked," it said.
"Garda personnel shall not drive official vehicles under the authorisation of a Chief Superintendent.
"Official vehicles may only be driven by gardai issued with a certificate of competency, having undergone appropriate garda driving assessment."
The latest available report from the Garda Inspectorate showed a marked level of disparity in training levels across garda divisions.
In the Southern Dublin Metropolitan Region, fewer than 20pc of members had been trained to CBD2 level and around the same number to CBD1 level, according to the report.
In North Central Dublin, the numbers were barely 30pc for each CBD level.
The move to revoke chief's permission has led to an angry reaction from rank-and-file gardai.
"Garda cars could be left sitting at stations unable to respond to emergencies unless a member on duty has passed a CBD2 course," a source said.
"Management should have ensured there were sufficient members trained to CBD2 level before they implemented the ban on chief's permission, but there are gaps now.
"Depending on who's on what shift, there could be a patrol car outside a station and nobody qualified to drive it."
Garda Representative Association president Jim Mulligan said the move was "another example of an inadequate training budget affecting front-line policing".
"We already have an overtime ban, now we have a restriction likely to reduce the amount of car patrols," he added.