Armed gar­daí on the streets

■ Large group of youths with cov­ered faces ■ Plan to raid city cen­tre store ■ No ar­rests

Irish Examiner - - Front Page - Dan Buck­ley, Eoin English, and Jes­sica Casey

Armed gar­daí as well as the force’s riot squad were de­ployed to Cork City cen­tre last night af­ter re­ports that a high-pro­file shop on St Pa­trick’s St was about to be robbed by a group of teenagers.

The Garda Pub­lic Or­der Unit, com­monly known as the riot squad, along with a sin­gle armed sup­port unit, were sent to pa­trol the streets of Cork City cen­tre amid fears that a group of teenagers were about to go on the ram­page. There were also a num­ber of gar­daí on foot pa­trol.

Shortly af­ter 6 pm, a group of up to 100 teenagers with their faces cov­ered could be seen run­ning along St Pa­trick’s St af­ter a no­tice was posted on Twit­ter by an un­known in­di­vid­ual or group call­ing for a raid on JD Sports.

The mes­sage was cir­cu­lated on so­cial me­dia ad­vis­ing peo­ple to gather out­side McDon­ald’s on Winthrop St, off St Pa­trick’s St, at 5.30pm.

The mes­sage stated: “Dress code. You must wear all black with bally [bal­a­clava] and gloves. You only have one minute to yam that shop. This is at your own risk. Don’t come if you can’t run.”

The mes­sage also ad­vised “don’t come in uni­form”, in­di­cat­ing that at least some of those in­volved were school stu­dents.

Shop­pers in the city cen­tre looked on as the garda units pa­trolled the city streets, en­sur­ing that no ri­ot­ing or rob­bery en­sued. One eye­wit­ness on St Pa­trick’s St said a group of youths had be­gun kick­ing bins and scream­ing.

The group dis­persed once gar­daí ar­rived, ac­cord­ing to the eye­wit­ness. Calm was re­stored to the city cen­tre within an hour as gar­daí con­tin­ued to pa­trol the streets.

Ear­lier, shop­pers be­came sus­pi­cious when large groups of youths with their faces cov­ered be­gan to gather in the area.

Gar­daí swamped the area with sev­eral units be­tween 6pm and 7pm be­fore the crowd even­tu­ally dis­persed.

There were no ar­rests, but gar­daí said in­ves­ti­ga­tions are on­go­ing.

A Garda spokesman said gar­daí were made aware of the po­ten­tial for an in­ci­dent to oc­cur at a re­tail premises the street.

“Ad­di­tional re­sources were de­ployed to the area to pre­vent any in­ci­dent oc­cur­ring,” a spokesman said.

“No of­fences have been dis­closed in the area. Gar­daí con­tinue to pa­trol the area cur­rently.”

Busi­ness lead­ers and lo­cal politi­cians de­scribed the in­ci­dent as sin­is­ter and wor­ry­ing af­ter de­tails of the on­line mes­sages emerged.

Cork City Labour coun­cil­lor John Ma­her called for all those in­volved in the sus­pected pre-planned in­ci­dent in Cork to face the full weight of the law.

“This type of plan was chill­ing and sober­ing,” he said.

“I com­mend gar­daí for deal­ing with this but those iden­ti­fied need to face se­ri­ous penal­ties and those in­volved must be brought to book.

“I will be writ­ing to the Min­is­ter for Jus­tice and the Garda com­mis­sioner to re­quest that spe­cial branch of­fi­cers are drafted into Cork City to stamp out this type of thug­gery im­me­di­ately.

“We must lance this boil be­fore any other copy­cat at­tempts are made in the city or in sur­round shop­ping cen­tres.”

It is be­lieved the foiled in­ci­dent may have been mod­elled on a gang raid of a JD Store in Lon­don on Hal­loween night last week which is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by Scot­land Yard.

A gang of masked and hooded youths looted a JD Sports store in north Lon­don, grab­bing hand­fuls of branded cloth­ing be­fore flee­ing the scene.

The en­tire in­ci­dent was videoed on SnapChat and shared widely.

Ear­lier this month, it emerged that chronic short­ages of gar­daí in Cork meant just two mem­bers of the force were pa­trolling the city cen­tre one night.

De­spite the fact that gar­daí in the city are in­ves­ti­gat­ing three mur­ders, the num­ber of de­tec­tives has been al­most halved.

The Garda Rep­re­sen­ta­tive As­so­ci­a­tion says the peo­ple of Cork City are not get­ting the polic­ing ser­vice they de­serve be­cause they are short 125 front­line gar­daí.

The as­so­ci­a­tion has de­scribed this sit­u­a­tion as “far­ci­cal”, con­sid­er­ing there is sup­posed to be a ma­jor push to civil­ianise ad­min­is­tra­tive work within the force.

Lim­er­ick has 490 gar­daí for a pop­u­la­tion of 166,817, or one garda per 340 peo­ple. Water­ford has a pop­u­la­tion of 112,967 and 275 gar­daí, mean­ing a ra­tio of one garda to 411 peo­ple.

On the other hand, the Cork City Garda Di­vi­sion has 576 gar­daí for 246,282 peo­ple, a ra­tio of one garda to 427 peo­ple.

A heavy po­lice pres­ence quelled the pos­si­bil­ity of any dis­or­der on Cork’s St Pa­trick St last night. A so­cial me­dia mes­sage, be­low, hinted at an or­gan­ised event.

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