The leaders of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have promised to prioritise Garda funding after concerns were raised over resourcing of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU).
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin vowed to increase recruitment and divert more funds to the specialist armed support unit after the Garda Representative Association (GRA) raised concerns about reduced operations.
A letter from a GRA representative to the head of the ERU questioned the unit’s capability to respond to serious firearms incidents.
The letter also claimed ERU equipment was out of date, including life-saving body armour.
Mr Martin was questioned about the issue while canvassing in Longford.
“In my view we have been led to believe that the ERU was properly resourced but now we are hearing that in some areas there was no cover at all on certain occasions,” said the Fianna Fail leader.
“It means resourcing and more personnel, it means 24/7 surveillance, it means additional people recruited to the ERU – that’s what it means.
“In an overall envelope of 11 billion which will be available over the next five years, that’s very doable, and that’s something that has to be prioritised.”
The GRA said the letter was an internal correspondence which should not have been made public.
The association added: “The GRA is seeking an urgent meeting with the Garda Commissioner regarding resourcing of Emergency Response Unit. We wish to discuss concerns raised in a letter from a local GRA representative to the detective superintendent in charge of the unit.”
The Garda confirmed receipt of a letter but said it could not comment directly on its contents as it referred to operational matters.
A spokesman said the force was satisfied it had the capability to respond to any critical firearms incident.
He said: “An Garda Siochana Special Tactics and Operations Command (STOC) provides specialist firearms and less lethal response to spontaneous incidents, such as 999 calls and for pre-planned operations. STOC has a number of specialist teams under its command including the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) and Armed Support Unit (ASU) nationally.
“An Garda Siochana armed support capability, capacity and training has significantly increased in recent years.
“An Garda Siochana is satisfied that there is currently a specialist firearms response capability to any critical firearms incidents that may occur in the state.”
Meanwhile, also on the campaign trail, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar defended the amount of resources given to Gardai and the Emergency Response Unit (ERU).
Speaking to reporters in Fermoy, Co Cork on Tuesday, he said: “I think we have to listen to the concerns raised by the Garda Representative Association, and I’m sure the Garda Commissioner will respond in due course.
“I do know that the Chief Super in Drogheda said that he has not any difficulty when he has needed to call on the armed support unit.
“What I would say is, bear in mind from the Government’s point of view that the Garda budget this year is 1.9 billion euro – the biggest Garda budget ever.
“Bear in mind that we now have armed support units in every region as well as the ERU, so we have put additional resources in the gardai and recruitment, and we will continue to do so if re-elected.”