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street patrol One garda tells his story of life on the beat in Dublin and how officers are facing 'burnout'


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Olympian Jack Woolley was the victim of an unprovoked attack in Dublin

Olympian Jack Woolley was the victim of an unprovoked attack in Dublin

Olympian Jack Woolley was the victim of an unprovoked attack in Dublin

LIFE on the beat for gardaí in Dublin city centre is becoming increasingly tough as they face 'burnout' and cannot 'efficiently investigate' assaults and robberies.

Speaking to the Herald, a garda claimed the "Jack Woolley assault is one of many" and there's "no plan" to deal with a gang of youths as young as 12 years old who are "roaming" the city streets and"indiscriminately assaulting people every night".

Speaking on condition on anonymity, the officer also told of tension at a recent Dáil sitting where protesters arrived and there was a shortage of gardaí in the area.

Officers "were easily outnumbered and if they (protesters) wanted to go into Dáil Éireann, they could have," the garda claimed.

Hard-working gardaí are sometimes being assaulted, with bottles and other items thrown at them during duty, the officer claimed.

Safety issues had been raised regarding Dublin city in the wake of Team Ireland taekwondo Olympic fighter Jack Woolley being brutally assaulted on the boardwalk by the River Liffey on Friday last week.

City councillors have also reported an increase in crime but the claims do not bear out in official An Garda Síochána crime statistics.

"The worst thing at the minute going on in the city is these gangs of roaming young lads," the officer said.

"They're anything between 12 and 17 years old. They're literally in gangs of 10 and 20 (strong). It's hard to police, if they are in that big of a group… They're intimidating and imposing.

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Jack was badly injured

Jack was badly injured

Jack was badly injured

"They're robbing people, assaulting people. And if you chase one of them and they end up running out in front of traffic or if they're riding a bike and they end up hurting themselves, it's an issue for us then.

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"Then we are under investigation and we could be suspended.

"If you're a member of the public, in the wrong place at the wrong time, you're assaulted.

"And it depends on the incident and what time it happens. If a unit has just come on, you could be the first person assaulted and you'll get that (garda) attention.

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Taekwondo hero Jack Woolley covered in blood.

Taekwondo hero Jack Woolley covered in blood.

Taekwondo hero Jack Woolley covered in blood.

"But if a robbery and assaults take place in the next hour to hour-and-a-half, the resources are deployed to what comes first."

The garda said that "me and my colleague (might) end up in a situation where there are 30 to 40 young lads (being antisocial) and we ask for public order assistance in dealing with it. We go in to try to defuse a situation and then we get assaulted and then they (public order) come but it's too late at that stage."

The garda added: "There simply are not enough guards on the street in uniform.

"There may only be about three or four guards on the beat (in an area of the city) when there should be at least 10 to police it correctly.

"There could be multiple assaults, robberies, burglaries a night but there's only so much a handful of guards can deal with efficiently.

"My colleagues and I are burnt out because the workload we take on.

"There are so many good, decent guards out there that deal with horrible s**t in the city centre every day, but I suppose that's the reason why I'm doing this...

"There seems to be no plan to deal with these gangs of 14 or 15 kids indiscriminately assaulting people every night of the week."

A source in the Garda Representative Association (GRA) said: "There are issues regarding manpower and a lack of resources."

They said this had become more apparent during the pandemic and they felt there was frustration at gardaí being "dragged away" from city centre areas, such as the Boardwalk, a known hotspot for antisocial behaviour.

According to the source Covid-19 issues were being "resourced" round-the-clock and it was felt this was affecting resourcing on the ground in the city.

An Garda Síochána's crime statistics, which detail assaults causing harm, minor assaults and public order offences have all dropped this year, when compared with January to July 2020.

However, there has been an increase in public order offences by 6pc in this period in Dublin south central.

Review

A Garda spokesperson said the statistics were compiled as a comparison from a period in 2020 when "Covid related restrictions were introduced… and represent a unique set of circumstances, making comparison with other times difficult…"

A spokesperson for An Garda Síochána said the force "is aware of the issues which are occurring with reported assaults and incidents of antisocial behaviour as Dublin City Centre experiences increased socialisation and relaxation of Covid Restrictions.

"Policing plans are in place, with particular emphasis on weekend and night time activities. These remain under constant review with the allocation of policing resources remaining adaptable.

"Additional resources have and continue to be deployed within city centre. These include high visibility uniform, National Public Order Unit and other local and Regional plain clothes units."

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