Gardaí must be properly trained on use of force, says civil liberties group

Gardaí Must Be Properly Trained On Use Of Force, Says Civil Liberties Group
The chief executive of the Irish Council of Civil Liberties said Garda management are responsible for ensuring gardaí are clear on the laws surrounding use of force. Photo: PA Images
Share this article

Vivienne Clarke

Updated: 11.30am

It is essential that gardaí are trained properly and that they be held accountable when they use force, the chief executive of the Irish Council Civil Liberties, Liam Herrick has said.


He added it is “clearly the responsibility of Garda management to make clear to members of the organisation what the law is on the use of force, and then to provide adequate training and the skills to make the decisions that they need to make around the use of force.”

Speaking to RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Mr Herrick said: “It's not the responsibility of the Policing Authority. It's certainly not the responsibility of GSOC (the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission).

“This is absolutely fundamental to policing. It is what policing is all about, that they are charged under the rule of law with exercising force proportionately when necessary, to protect public safety.” Any suggestion of blame elsewhere was a distraction, he added.

Mr Herrick's comments come after Minister for Justice Helen McEntee tasked the Policing Authority with reviewing the use of force by gardaí following last week's riots in Dublin. Both the Garda Representative Agency (GRA) and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) have questioned the decision, claiming it is not a matter appropriate for the Policing Authority.


If members of An Garda Síochána did not understand the law and were not properly trained, then they were being put in “an incredibly invidious position when asked to exercise force without that clarity”.

It is essential that any police force be trained properly, and that when they respond there is accountability when exercising the use of force, Mr Herrick said.

“Regrettably, I think some of the representative associations over the last 20 years have been resistant and hostile to robust investigation and accountability from an independent body, and we're seeing this continuously.

“We have a lot of anecdotes coming out now that the guards are afraid to do their job because they're afraid of unfair investigations on.”


Mr Herrick said it was “a cynical distraction to suggest that the problems we had last week are in any way linked to having too much oversight”.

“It's implying that we can reduce the problems, which are very deep, to the suggestion that you either have light touch policing or heavy handed policing, that we just need more force and the problems will go away.

“What we've been hearing from guards is that there was a complete failure of operational control last week, there was a complete failure of management, that we don't have effective preparedness or intelligence about this problem.

“If the Policing Authority has the opportunity to examine those questions, I think we might get to the heart of what the problem is, but it is a cynical distraction to suggest that the only problem out there is guards might be investigated if they break the law.”


'Red herring'

Separately, Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik described the tasking of the Policing Authority to advise and clarify the situation on the use of force as “a complete red herring”.

She told RTÉ radio's Today with Claire Byrne that this is not the authority's function

“It was appalling for me as a Dubliner, for anyone across the country, not just in Dublin, to watch our streets burning on Thursday night and to see such a breakdown of law and order. So certainly we don't have confidence in policing.”

The calls for “heads to roll” had been an unfortunate knee-jerk reaction, she said, noting there is a number of issues facing An Garda Síochána, including recruitment and retention.


“Couple that with a failure by Government to tackle the growth of the far right and that has led to that perfect storm that we saw erupt so devastatingly on Thursday night.

“We don't have confidence in the guards. We don't have confidence in the management, the political oversight of policing in Ireland, and we hold the Government to account for that.”

Ms Bacik added: “What we don't think has been helpful is the shouting from the sidelines by people calling for immediate resignations. What we need is serious political, political and operational accountability.

“We certainly think that there are very serious questions to be answered by the Minister [Helen McEntee], by her Government and by the [Garda] Commissioner.

“Questions about failures in the allocation of resources by all of Government, including Fianna Fáil, and questions about the operational deployment of tactics, questions about the issues that are now emerging.”

“Why did gardaí have to go home to collect riot gear? Why was there not sufficient training on proportionate use of force?” she asked.

Ms Bacik said it is “simply not credible that the Policing Authority is being asked to advise gardaí on what should have been taught to them during their training.

“We need to see accountability at the top, and we need to see accountability across all of Government,” she added.

Read More

Message submitting... Thank you for waiting.

Want us to email you top stories each lunch time?

Download our Apps
© 2024, developed by Square1 and powered by