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SOCIAL BOOKMARKS

30% fewer armed garda patrols due to over time cuts

High-visibility armed patrols in Dublin have been reduced by up to 30% because of overtime cuts, separate garda sources have said.

Several sources said the number of Armed Support Unit (ASU) patrols operating per shift at any one time dropped from seven to four, following a direction last Friday, before rising to five yesterday, writes Cormac O'Keefe.

In addition, covert backup provided by the Special Detective Unit (SDU) has also been cut, from three patrols per shift to two or as low as one.

The ASU provides a trained and heavily-armed response squad for Dublin with a strong focus on combating the Kinahan-Hutch feud, which has claimed a total of 13 lives.

File image.

Sources said that key garda districts affected by the feud — in the north inner city and in the south inner city/Crumlin area — no longer have their own dedicated ASU or SDU patrols.

Sources said these districts have to share an ASU patrol with divisions across a wider geographical area and can not rely on having their own SDU patrol.

“The cuts to the ASU and the SDU mean coverage has been reduced dramatically,” said one experienced source.

“It means less cover on the ground, less checkpoints, less support for armed calls and less availability for high-risk searches.”

John O’Keeffe, spokesman for the Garda Representative Association, said: “The Hutch and Kinahan gangs have not gone away.

“Having a full complement of armed units patrolling the capital is no longer a choice — it is a necessity. ASU and SDU patrols need to be increased, not cut — to do so is to extend Christmas for these dysfunctional gangs.”

He called on the Government to provide whatever supplementary budget was needed.

The ASU also has a function relating to other feuds in the city, in responding to any incident involving a firearm, and has a specific responsibility in relation to Dublin Airport.

“These cuts come from our paymasters,” said one source. The overtime budget soared to €130m in 2017, compared to €91m in 2016. Some €100m has been allotted for 2018.

A spokesman for An Garda Síochána said that it did not discuss specific details regarding the deployment of covert or uniform armed patrols for operational reasons.

“Garda management is satisfied that the present level of armed resources available within the DMR is sufficient to meet current policing requirements,” the spokesman said, adding that the matter was kept under constant review.

ASU and SDU patrols are separate to the activities of both the elite Emergency Response Unit and the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.

The latter has scored significant successes in targeting drugs and firearms belonging to the Kinahan cartel in particular and in disrupting assassination attempts and arresting gang associates.

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.