Under-pressure Justice Minister announces review of the use of force for gardaí

under-pressure justice minister announces review of the use of force for gardaí

Justice Minister Helen McEntee

JUSTICE MINISTER HELEN McEntee is to announce a review aiming to provide clarity on the use of force by gardaí responding to public order incidents similar to last Thursday’s riot in Dublin.

The Fine Gael TD, who has come under mounting pressure amid calls by the Opposition for her and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to resign, is putting forward the review as part of an examination of the support available to An Garda Síochána when dealing with scenes similar to that seen in the city centre.

McEntee has also asked the Policing Authority to review how frontline Gardaí dealing with serious public order events can be further supported.

This is understood to include the equipment they need in such circumstances, such as non-lethal equipment, stronger vehicles, resources, the use of the dog unit, training and powers – including the use of their coercive powers where necessary.

At today’s meeting of Cabinet, McEntee will also provide an update on the policing response to last Thursday in Dublin, and outline the efforts being made in areas such as garda recruitment.

“The Minister believes that Gardaí should not have to look over their shoulder or second guess themselves in circumstances where the use of force is warranted and necessary,” a government source said. “She wants Gardaí who put themselves at risk to have clear guidance on how they can use force where necessary to do their jobs.”

As part of the Policing Authority review, McEntee wants it to update previous work in this area in light of the riots in Dublin, alongside a concern that there is a changed environment post-Covid, combined with the growth of social media.

She has also asked An Garda Síochána to consider how to fast track the purchase of Garda bodycams.

The legislation to allow An Garda Síochána use bodycams will pass all stages in the Oireachtas this week, and they are due to be rolled out by the middle of next year.

Minister McEntee has also instructed her officials to expand the scope of her Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) legislation to include riot and violent disorder. The draft facial recognition technology law will be ready to be approved by Government within weeks.

It is hoped that it will mean gardaí will not have to manually trawl through 6,000 hours of CCTV, as has to be done following Thursday’s scenes to identify those responsible for the violence and looting in the city on Thursday night.

The FRT legislation is due to go through pre-legislative scrutiny before being finalised, which means it could be next year at the earliest before it comes into effect.

Ireland-UK Research centres

Minister for Further Education and Research Simon Harris will also seek Cabinet approval today for the creation of two new research centres in partnership with the UK government and Northern Ireland government departments.

In total, €70m is to be announced including €40m from Science Foundation Ireland, supported by the Department of Further Education and Research and the Irish Government’s Shared Island Fund.

It is understood that the ‘Co-Centres’ programme will bring together academics, industry and policymakers to collaborate on common challenges like food sustainability and climate change.

Minister Harris and UK Government Secretary of State Michelle Donelan are set to announce the details of the partnership later today following the British and Irish Intergovernmental Conference at Farmleigh House in Dublin.

It is understood that funding for the ‘Co-Centres’ programme will be provided over six years and will include up to £17m from Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and up to £12m through UK Research and Innovation.

The ‘Co-Centres’, which will also be co-funded by industry, will formally begin activities from the beginning of January.

Irish beef and sea salt

Elsewhere, it is understood that Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue will ask Cabinet to note that Irish grass fed beef and Achill Island sea salt is due to be registered as an all island Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) under EU Quality Schemes.

The Department of Agriculture and Bord Bia jointly applied for the status on behalf of Irish producers both in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Additional reporting by Eoghan Dalton

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