Following consideration of the matter at today's Government meeting, the Tanaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell, TD, has authorised the addition of conductive electric devices to the range of less lethal weapons available to the Garda Emergency Response Unit (ERU).  These devices are sometimes referred to by the brand name 'TASER'.

The Tanaiste also briefed the Government that the Garda Commissioner has established regional primary response teams in each Garda region outside Dublin to act as initial responders to critical incidents pending the deployment of the ERU.  These teams will be drawn from the regional Public Order Units and will receive additional specialist training.

The Tanaiste has authorised the deployment to these teams of the three less lethal weapons already available to the ERU - bean bag shot, OC (pepper) spray and OC (pepper) spray shot.

The Tanaiste said "These developments are part of the ongoing enhancement of the capacity of An Garda Siochana's to respond to critical incidents and to put in practice the lessons learned from the events at Abbeylara that led to the tragic death of John Carthy.  The availability of less lethal options will help to avoid, as far as is humanly possible, such deaths in the future.

I fully support the Commissioner in the ongoing process of implementing the many recommendations in the Garda Siochana Inspectorate's report."

These developments follow from proposals made to the Tanaiste by the Garda Commissioner and take account of recommendations made by the Garda Siochana Inspectorate in its recent report to the Tanaiste on barricade incidents.

The circumstances under which less lethal weapons could legitimately be used are limited to circumstances where this is necessary to avoid the use of firearms.  The use of firearms is permitted only to repel serious attacks on Gardai, members of the public or property, or in the arrest or re-arrest of persons involved in serious offences.  Strict conditions are laid down, including a requirement in all cases that all other means of achieving the purpose in question have been exhausted, before firearms may be used.  The test which currently applies to the use of less lethal weapons, that their use is necessary to avoid the use of firearms, is therefore a high one.

3 April 2007