Irish people will have to die in a terror attack here before this country gets the resources it needs, according to a Cork-based member of An Garda Siochana.
Michael Corcoran, a spokesperson for the Garda Representative Association, said the country's police force is severely under-resourced right now, and would be incapable of responding properly should a large-scale terror-related incident take place.
“Look at the police force in London – they were able to put feet on the street and deal with the recent terror attack there within eight minutes. That was the time from when they got the call about what was happening until those attackers were dead the other night. We would never have that type of a capability.”
Garda Corcoran's comments come in the wake of Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald's claims that gardaí have all the “necessary operational measures" to combat terrorism, including "a well-trained and equipped special intervention capability".
It has also emerged that Garda top brass has decided not to change the threat level here, which currently remains at “moderate”, the second of five stages, which means a terror attack is possible, but not likely.
Garda Corcoran, however, said top officials and commentators here have simply been making excuses for Ireland's lack of resources by claiming that Ireland is not at risk.
“People say that Ireland is not a target, but it is. Ireland has to be considered a target. It's like saying that somebody is definitely not going to get burgled when they're the only house on the street without an alarm. We're the only house currently on the street which doesn't have an alarm. Every other country has a proper anti-terrorist capability put in place. We haven't,” he said.
“If you only put yourself in the burglar's position... which house would you hit? Are you going to hit the one that's going to get you caught? No, you're not. You're going to go for the easy target.”
Garda Corcoran said there needs to be a larger police force here and that members need to receive better training. Having said this, he feels it will only happen as “a knee-jerk reaction” after something terrible takes place.
“I do feel that people will be killed before we get a proper reaction to what is an international threat at the moment. It's only when something does happen here that we'll get proper resources being injected into the situation. It won't be until then. And that's the unfortunate thing,” he said.
“Currently, in a city like Cork, you only have two or three members that are armed on any given day. Maybe four at the most. If you look at that, if there was an incident and they met with a superior force of bigger numbers, they would have a real problem. So we neither have the training nor have we the numbers.”
Yesterday, however, it was announced that the country's Regional Support Unit (RSU) would double in size. Garda Corcoran said this move is a welcome one, but doesn't go far enough. He also said it will take at least six months before this move makes a difference on the ground.
“Whether that's going to be adequate or not I don't know. It's supposed to bring the RSU up to a 24/7 situation whereas currently we don't have that facility. We currently don't have adequate cover and after certain times at night there is no RSU available because they don't have the numbers,” he said.
“The expansion is a bit of welcome news, but the problem is that that training, it's probably at least six months down the road. We appear to be playing catch up all of the time. There were three incidents in England there in the last few weeks... and it's only now that we're talking about expanding our resources? It's crazy.”