Sunday 26 May 2019

Frontline gardai 'need more support to help them deal with stress'

Ciaran O’Neill said the current system ‘is not good enough’
Ciaran O’Neill said the current system ‘is not good enough’

Gardai have called for more psychological support as it was revealed a highly regarded detective who shot crazed killer Mark Hennessy dead earlier this month is receiving counselling.

The shocking tragedy was brought up at a press conference yesterday at the annual Garda Representative Association (GRA) conference in Wexford.

Ciaran O'Neill, president of the GRA, which represents 11,000 frontline officers, said: "One of the issues that's been raised by the membership - and we'll be speaking about it over the next two days - is that we don't feel there's enough support.


"We need to see money invested in respect of the welfare of our members.

"We do have a welfare system and a welfare assistance system, but I just don't think it's good enough.

"I think it needs to be bolstered, particularly with additional resources and members.

"I don't want to take just one incident because every day, a member of An Garda Siochana comes across a stressful incident.

"Compared to any other person in the public, we would see things that the majority of people wouldn't see in a lifetime.

"We'd see them on a weekly or daily basis.

"There is a call system operational where you get six phone calls, and it's just not enough."

The system Mr O'Neill was referring to was that all gardai are entitled to six counselling sessions if required, including phone conversations with a trained professional on a 24-hour basis, seven days a week.

Deputy GRA president Jim Mulligan, who is a close colleague of the garda involved in the Hennessy shooting, said: "It's limited in what it can deliver, particularly if you're suffering in a bad way.

"It's limited in what it can do. A lot of it is down to budgets and we accept that.

"These are split-second decisions. You can have all the decision-making models you want.

"An Garda Siochana have a decision-making model, but it is a split-second decision that you have to make the choice between whether you are going to carry out what you need to carry out or not.

"That's what it comes down to, a split-second decision.

"It is what the person felt at the time, that is what really matters."

The issue is just one of many that will be discussed this week at the conference.

Other major topics include concern among frontline gardai that unarmed members of the force are not being given proper tactical training to cope with terrorist attacks similar to the training counterparts in other European countries receive.

Mr O'Neill also reinforced the association's view that all frontline gardai should be equipped with non-lethal Tasers, which temporarily incapacitate suspects.

He said in other countries the use of such equipment had proved highly successful, especially in Northern Ireland where it is standard issue for all PSNI officers.


When the weapon is aimed at a suspect, it emits a red beam and in nine out of 10 cases, when the person sees that beam on their body, they will stop resisting arrest.

Currently, Tasers are available only to the Special Branch, Emergency Response Unit and Armed Support Units.

On another issue, it previously emerged that an Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) camera recorded much of the incident in the Cherrywood Business Park, Dublin, earlier this month when Hennessy was shot dead.

Members of the GRA have called for such cameras to be installed in every frontline patrol vehicle.

The GRA conference will get fully under way today and will be addressed by Acting Garda Commissioner Donall O Cualain.

A doctor who carried out an extensive survey on garda mental health issues will also present his results to the conference today.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan will speak to the 158 GRA delegates tomorrow.

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