Text: Izzy Copestake
Previously, tasers were only given to a handful of trained officers.
Today, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris confirmed that 200 tasers and stronger pepper spray will be distributed to Gardaí. The tasers will only be given to Public Order Garda officers who complete specialist training. Pepper spray was previously only available to specialist Public Order Gardaí, but now a stronger spray will be available to all Garda officers, as part of their “operational day-to-day equipment”.
This was confirmed in a speech to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Policing Matters, which was called following the outbreak of violent and shocking riots in Dublin city centre last Thursday. Harris has stated that the “intense violence that took place was shocking and distressing”, but he has stressed that “calm was being restored immediately as gardaí were deployed”.
However, there have been calls for Harris to resign amidst accusations that garda officers did not do enough to prevent the chaos that occurred on Thursday. Harris stressed, “I have no intention whatsoever of resigning.”Later in the meeting, Senator Lynn Ruane stated that a focus on criticising the Garda was a ‘distraction’ from the issue at hand. Instead, she suggested an analysis “looking inwards and wondering what led us here today”. The Senator asked Harris what he saw as the main roots of this far-right, violent hatred.
Harris responded by referring back to a 2019 policing authority meeting in which he first addressed the rise of the far-right, pointing out how beginning from a place of prejudice can escalate into ‘hatred’. He went on to say that many of the violent individuals within far-right groups are not interested in “rational discussion”, “fully convinced” of conspiracy theories, and radicalised online.
The choice to arm Garda officers more heavily comes as no surprise considering the scale of destruction last Thursday. However, this is not a random outburst of violence. Racism and hatred, fuelled by far-right propaganda and misinformation, have been growing in the shadows in Ireland for years, last week we saw that bubble over into violence. Perhaps the root of the issue should be tackled with the same level of urgency to prevent this horrific event repeating itself.
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