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Armed Support Unit to be increased by 20 members says Commissioner

Armed Support Unit to be increased by 20 members says Commissioner

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan announced that the country's Armed Support Unit will have 20 extra members by next year.

Speaking in the wake of the London Bridge attack by Islamic extremists, the Commissioner said gardai have launched a competition to increase the numbers of the Armed Support Unit nationwide.

By next June 22, that unit will have 20 extra members, she said an increase in capacity by 33pc.

She also said gardai take our national security responsibilities very seriously and claimed terrorism is not about religion.

It emerged following the attack that one of the three London attackers, Rachid Redouane, had lived in the south Dublin suburb of Rathmines and married here in November 2012.

"We continuous review the threat assessment, we also review our response capability.

"I think what's really evident is, the world around us is changing, and if we need a sharp reminder of that it's London Bridge," she said.

She said over the last three years, and especially in the wake of the 2015 Bataclan attack in Paris, gardai have been focused on engagement with minority communities.

She was speaking at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) forum on policing in the digital age, hosted by An Garda Siochana at Farmleigh House, in the Phoenix Park.

The commissioner, responding to claims that gardai on the ground were unprepared for an attack here, praised the bravery of members.

She said any response to an attack would come in tiers, including the Emergency Response Unit and the Armed Support Unit.

And she said gardai had launched a competition to increase the numbers of the Armed Support Unit nationwide.

By next June 22, that unit will have 20 extra members, she said an increase in capacity by 33pc.

The commissioner also claimed that terrorism was not about religion.

"We should not link terrorism to any specific religion," she said. 

Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Jim O'Callaghan TD responded to the statement on RTE Radio One's News at One and said he was "encouraged" by what the Commissioner had to say.

"I'm encouraged by what the Garda Commissioner had to say.

"The most important objective in the beginning is that the gardaí conduct a thorough investigation into the arrival and stay of Rachid in the country.

"They need to find out was he radicalised here or when he left, if it's the former than gardaí will have to follow the trail of radicalistion."

Mr O'Callaghan said it needs to be established what Ireland's potential weaknesses are.

"It needs to be seen where the weaknesses are, we really need to know how gardaí could respond to something immediately."

He repeated the concern heard earlier this week that perhaps it is ordinary rank and file gardaí "who have not received adequate training."

When questioned about incoming Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's plans to create a COBRA-type agency similar to the UK, Mr O'Callaghan replied; " COBRA is a room, the Cabinet Office Briefing Room A, if he's talking about do we need a new room, we have a room.

"If he's talking about do we need a new security committee than that's worth thinking about.

"I wouldn't agree to separating our intelligence agency from the gardaí yet.

"We should wait to see the outcome of the report from Kathleen O'Toole and see what the report's findings are.

"There is some benefit to considering it, but I won't decide anything until I see the report."

Luke Byrne