Elderly Gardaí have left two Gardaí hospitalized after a late-night attack in Ballyfermot, Dublin, and have called for foreclosure laws.
Antoinette Cunningham, the general secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), called on the government to introduce mandatory sentencing of those who assault rescue workers, including Gardaí, paramedics and firefighters.
She also called for body cameras to be issued to all Gardaí, which she says successive governments have not provided.
Four people were arrested after video showed a male Garda being kicked and punched on the ground while his colleague tried to fend off the attackers before being pulled away by the hair.
Both Gardaí were taken to St James’s Hospital. The woman was released after treatment and the man was held overnight and later released yesterday.
Two men, one in his 50s and one in his 30s, were arrested at the scene and are currently being held at Ballyfermot Garda Station.
A woman in her 50s was also arrested at the scene. She has been charged and will appear in court at a later date.
Another man was arrested yesterday and is also being questioned at Ballyfermot Garda Station.
The call for new legislation was broadly backed by Justice Secretary Helen McEntee, who said she was already increasing penalties for assault and was considering new laws for Gardaí following the recent “thug” attack in Ballyfermot.
Speaking to Claire Byrne on RTÉs Today, AGSI’s Ms Cunningham said: “There has to be a deterrent to say that if you attack an emergency responder, gardaí, fire brigade or ambulance worker in the course of their duty, they do is received mandatory sentencing by the courts.’
Ms Cunningham said she spoke to her colleagues in Ballyfermot this morning and there was “a deep sense of unease among them all”.
“To see colleagues being kicked, punched and attacked on the ground while bystanders stand by and film it is absolutely shocking.”
She said they have been calling for the introduction of body cameras for some time, but were recently told by Garda headquarters that An Garda Síochána would not use them until 2024.
“It’s a very long wait. In the meantime, however, social media needs to be more accountable,” Ms Cunningham added.
“They must stop the distribution of this type of material.” Garda Representative Association President Brendan O’Connor said everyone was shocked by the “ongoing nature of the attack”.
Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Mr O’Connor said there had been a “massive escalation” in the violence faced by members of An Garda Síochána. He also called for mandatory imprisonment laws “to provide both a deterrent and a form of protection and punishment” and better equipment and training for gardaí.
Mr O’Connor said most other police forces carry body cameras but in this case cellphone footage is being used to investigate what happened.
The proposed legislation for bodycams for Gardaí “is not moving fast enough,” he said.
Ms McEntee yesterday held open the possibility of new legislation to protect Gardaí following the “despicable” attack.
“The disgusting and brutal attacks on members of An Garda Síochána show complete disrespect for our Gardaí. My thoughts are with the affected Garda members and their families. This kind of despicable incident is unacceptable.
“This appalling incident is not being taken lightly. I’m already increasing the penalties for assault. I will not hesitate to take further measures to protect our gardaí and frontline workers,” she added.
The attack was condemned by politicians across the spectrum, with Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald calling it “shocking and disgraceful”.
The Garda Press Office said the two Gardaí were called to a “public order incident” at a pub on Ballyfermot Road around 12.45am on Monday morning.
“While handling the incident, both members were attacked by several people present and asked for help from colleagues nearby, who arrived within a very short time,” it said.