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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C Commissioner Drew Harris speaking to the media at the weekend.

Commissioner expressed 'dissatisfaction' over GRA appearance on Prime Time on Thursday

The incident happened during a meeting between garda representative groups and Drew Harris this weekend.

THE GARDA COMMISSIONER criticised a garda representative body official who spoke to the media to raise concerns about the safety of gardaí during the Dublin riot, The Journal has learned.

It has emerged that during a meeting with the Garda Representative Association (GRA), which included President of the GRA Brendan O’Connor, Drew Harris singled out gardaí who had appeared on the RTÉ Prime Time programme on the night of the riot.

O’Connor, who is a serving garda based in Donegal, participated in the RTÉ programme on Thursday night and raised concerns about how gardaí were left exposed by poor resourcing and training.

The riot raged across the city centre for much of the evening as groups of rioters looted shops and attacked gardaí. They also burned out garda vehicles and smashed shop fronts. A bus and a Luas tram were damaged by fire during pitch battles on the streets of Dublin.

The GRA and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) attended a meeting with the Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris and other senior officers on Saturday. 

The AGSI said in a tweet on Saturday that they gave “constructive feedback” during the meeting in regard to garda “tactics and welfare”. 

During the meeting, sources said, Harris “expressed his dissatisfaction” that the GRA President was speaking on RTÉ as the policing operation was underway in Dublin. 

The Saturday meeting covered concerns by representative associations for the safety and support of gardaí involved in policing the Dublin unrest. 

Sources have said that the meeting looked at training shortcomings including in the recertification courses for Public Order Unit gardaí.

It is understood that trainee gardaí were deployed on the frontline, and questions have been raised about the suitability of deploying those students in such a volatile and dangerous setting.

Sources said that during the riot an urgent need for assistance was made by officers in Dublin, and gardaí from across Leinster from and as far as County Waterford travelled to the capital to assist their colleagues. 

The GRA also spoke about the lack of specialist helmets to protect soft cap uniform gardaí, and told the Commissioner that there was a shortage of adequate transport to bring gardaí into the city centre. 

Garda representatives raised concerns that gardaí have not received updated training in how to use their batons and handcuffs, and, critically, they called for a review of the policing tactics that left many gardaí isolated and attacked during the outbreak of rioting on O’Connell Street and surrounding areas. 

Sources said the GRA also stated during the meeting that some members had to return home to collect specialist Public Order Unit equipment as they had nowhere to store the equipment at stations due to a lack of adequate lockers.

The representative association also said that there was a substantial risk to the security of garda stations given that they were unable to lock and secure the public office areas. Footage has emerged online, verified by The Journal, of gardaí protecting the front of Store Street garda Station during the riot.  

There was also communication difficulties with Tetra communications and a claim that there were not enough qualified people in Command and Control to deal with handling the violence as it unfolded. 

Tetra is a secure digital radio system used by gardaí to communicate while on duty. Command and Control is the the Dublin centre for all communications which dispatches gardaí to calls across the Dublin Metropolitan Region.  

Gardaí have said that a number of officers were injured during the rioting with one officer suffering a serious foot injury.  

The GRA and the Garda Commissioner have not been on good terms since the GRA voted overwhelmingly that they had no confidence in Drew Harris.

In response to the handling of the Dublin riots pressure is mounting in political circles also as the opposition is examining the possibility of a vote of no confidence in the Dáil against both the Commissioner and Minister for Justice Helen McEntee

McEntee and Harris have been invited to appear before the Oireachtas Justice Committee to answer questions on the management of policing before and after the riot.