A major emergency training exercise simulating a terrorist attack has taken place in Dublin to prepare authorities in the event of a potential incident in the capital.
Garda specialist personnel, first-responders and some 50 actors were involved in playing out a fake attack on the grounds of Dublin City University’s campus on Friday evening.
The Garda led the multi-agency training exercise, which involved specialist police response units, the National Ambulance Service, the Defence Forces and Dublin Fire Brigade.
It was designed to test the response capabilities of Ireland’s primary responders.
The staged university attack started with a car being driven into by-standers on the campus.
At first it was reported to Garda control centre as a road traffic collision but within minutes it was elevated to a terrorism incident when a number of assailants exited the car and starting stabbing and shooting people.
In the real-time tiered response system, local Garda units responded followed by members of the Armed Support Unit and the Emergency Response Unit, as well as multiple ambulances and Dublin Fire Brigade units.
One of the assailants was shot dead in the simulation before two other terrorists retreated into a nearby a building and took a number of people hostage.
As part of the training exercise, armed gardai stormed the building and they managed to shoot the two assailants and retrieve the hostages safely.
Gardai described the exercise, dubbed Operation Barracuda, a success. The focus of the exercise was on saving lives. All of the hostages were liberated.
It was designed to replicate the resources that would by typically available on a Friday night.
Donal O’Driscoll from the Garda’s special tactics and operations command said one of the reasons it had gone well was because Ireland was ahead of the curve when it came to identifying potential issues responding to an attack because the Garda was operationally experienced in counter-terrorism.
He said they had also adopted successful strategies that police in France and UK had found useful during actual terrorist incidents in those countries.
Deputy Garda Commissioner John Twomey said the agencies had come together to prepare for a potential real-life emergency.
“It’s about how communications work in a real life incident,” he said.
“We know there would be difficulties and challenges, we know that information would be changing by the second. It’s about how we manage all that.”
He said each agency had prepared for the training exercise individually over the past 18 months but the simulation was about making sure they can work together quickly and effectively.
“It’s hugely important and critically important that we know the challenges we’re going to face and the only way we can do it is by doing exercises like these,” Mr Twomey added.
Superintendent Liam Geraghty said important lessons can be learned from such simulations.
“We learn what’s may have gone wrong and what has gone right and we learn and develop a framework going forward,” he said.
He said the current threat level of a terrorist attack in Ireland had remained unchanged at moderate.
“The threat level here for Ireland at the moment remains at moderate which means an attack is always possible but is unlikely at this stage,” he added.
“But we always keep that under review.”