Armed gardaí have trained for 'active shooter' attacks at empty schools and public buildings
Sources have said Ireland has a developed response protocol to deal with scenarios similar to US school shootings and mass shooting incidents in the US.
The protocol, worked up by the Special Tactics and Operations Command (STOC), has directed that armed gardaí enter immediately buildings and deal with the armed attacker.
The regional Armed Support Units (ASU) and Dublin based Emergency Response Unit (ERU) are Ireland’s specialist garda firearms units. They are trained in tactics and protocols to deal with dangerous armed incidents.
Sources have said that both units have undergone training to deal with scenarios in which a gunman has attacked various types of buildings including schools, stadiums, shopping centres, train stations and offices.
The sources said that this was not necessarily in response to any shootings in the US or elsewhere in recent years but was part of broader strategic planning.
Europe is not immune to such gun attacks with several people killed in a shooting at a shopping mall in Copenhagen in Denmark in recent days.
Some gardaí have raised concerns about the response capability in rural areas where ASUs must travel greater distances. There have also been concerns around staffing in the ASU teams.
Sources have said that the likelihood of a mass shooting event is more likely in a large urban area.
There was heavy criticism of police in the US following the mass shooting at Uvalde school in Texas in which police delayed in entering the classroom to deal with the gunman. A gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School.
Sources who spoke to The Journal said that kind of a response would not happen here with armed gardaí trained to immediately enter the building and find the shooter.
“The Uvalde police response was horrendous. They either had no training or were not doing as trained. Since the Columbine shooting in Colorado in the US the tactic has been to enter the school and take on the gunman.
“There is a protocol or standard operating procedure here where by any premises, regardless of it being a house, a company, a stadium or school once there’s an active shooter, you progress to the target, and engage.
“That goes for if even one unit of say two ASU gardaí arrive at the scene at a school incident for instance, they would immediately enter and engage the target there’s no waiting around for assistance from other units,” a source explained.
There has been some informal training with some regional Armed Support Units with the ARW in Munster.
It is understood that STOC has determined that the response to any potential incident would be gardaí in the primary role.
The Defence Forces have developed a strategy to deal with a so-called “marauding terrorist” attack. This is similar to the Paris, Mumbai and London assaults by Islamic terror groups – this involves multiple locations with combined firearms and explosive threats.
This would see a response from the ARW given the length of time of that type of event but the primary response to immediate shooter incidents is expected to be from local Armed Support Unit.
In 2018 the Garda head of National Security and Intelligence then Assistant Commissioner Michael O’Sullivan said that there were two ERU units standing by at the garda base in Harcourt Square with ASU also patrolling.
At that time the garda said that they anticipated a seven minute response time with an intitial first arrival of armed ASU units to the scene of an incident within three minutes.