Dozens of gardai are being investigated for alleged assault or abuse of power when using pepper spray, it has emerged.
The Garda Ombudsman has received 66 complaints - a number of them involving children - about the use of the non-lethal weapons since their introduction last year.
Almost four in every 10 cases brought before the garda watchdog alleges a non-fatal offence, or assault, which for the most part requires a criminal investigation.
Another 26 complaints involve allegations of abuse of authority while a smaller number deal with claims that officers neglected their duty or were discourteous while using the incapacitant spray.
Garda headquarters said the force had used the weapon on 208 occasions to date.
Figures obtained by the Press Association show there were five complaints against the force about pepper spray involving children aged up to 17 years.
A Garda spokesman said it could not comment on any matters before the Garda Ombudsman but suggested pepper spray was reducing assaults on officers.
"Incapacitant spray provides an additional tactical option that may be available to gardai in the resolution of an incident," he said.
"Its use should be seen in the context of the conflict management model as a whole.
"Anecdotal evidence would suggest that its use has reduced the number of 'would-be' physical encounters had it not been available to members."