32. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the status of An Garda Síochána as a primarily unarmed force, in view of the apparent increased incidence of armed gardaí on the streets of Dublin and elsewhere. [42359/18]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for the distribution of resources, including personnel, among the various Garda Divisions and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources.
The Deputy will be aware that An Garda Síochána, is a largely unarmed police service which polices our people by consent, and has a proud tradition of being a community police service by fostering close links with the communities it serves. A Garda Síochána remains committed to that principle and that of its first Commissioner Michael Staines who stated ‘The Garda Síochána will succeed not by force of arms or numbers, but on their moral authority as servants of the people’.
Armed Support Units (ASU) were established on a Regional basis in order to provide an armed response capacity and capability on a Regional basis to support and supplement, where necessary, front line unarmed uniformed Garda colleagues. Members of the ASU are highly trained and equipped with a variety of non-lethal and lethal weapons and perform high visibility armed checkpoints and patrols in a uniform that deliberately distinguishes them from their unarmed uniformed colleagues.
I am advised that in the event of an armed incident or similar outrage armed Detective members from local Districts and Divisional units respond, as do the Armed Response Units, which are based at two locations in each Garda Region. Should the incident be escalated and further armed support be required the Garda Emergency Response Unit are also available and they, too, are highly trained and especially equipped to respond to the most serious outrage or terrorist threat.
I am informed by the Commissioner that it is not possible for operational reasons to disclose the number of Gardaí that are armed. However, I can assure the Deputy that the principle of being an unarmed police service is still paramount and sacrosanct and that the numbers of armed uniformed Gardaí is a tiny percentage of the over all numbers in An Garda Síochána I have also been assured by the Commissioner that the deployment of visible, highly-trained armed support is in-line with international best practise and commensurate with the potential threat of harm posed to both the public and frontline unarmed Garda members, from internationally organised and highly armed crime gangs and from the threat of terrorism. Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 25.