Garda lost toe in Dublin riots due to unsuitable boots, conference hears

Steel cap on standard issue public order boot does not cover the entire foot, GRA conference hears

A Garda responding to last year’s Dublin riots lost a toe as the standard issue steel toe boots do not cover the entire foot, the Garda Representative Association (GRA) annual conference has heard.

Garda representatives say they were sent into deal with the riots on the night of November 23rd, without adequate training, equipment or command and control.

John Joe O’Connell, a garda stationed in Naas, was one of many gardaí who travelled into the capital from surrounding districts at short notice to respond to the violence. He said he and other gardaí decided on their own initiative to travel to Dublin to help their colleagues after exchanging messages on WhatsApp.

“We had members in Kildare completely lacking the appropriate equipment to handle what unfolded on that night,” Gda O’Connell said.


Older members were able to “dust off” their old riot helmets they were issued in Templemore many years ago, he said. However, younger gardaí had no access to riot helmets.

Karl O’Reilly, from Dublin South Central, referred to a public order garda from his district who lost his little toe during the violence when a heavy object fell on it.

The garda was wearing the standard issue public order boots along with his other riot gear but the steel toe does not cover down as far as a little toe, Gda O’Reilly said.

“It is not acceptable to send members out into highly dangerous, volatile situations without full and proper PPE [Personal Protective Equipment],” he said.

GRA president Brendan O’Connor said gardaí were sent to respond to the violence wearing “soft caps” instead of full riot gear. He called this a “terrible dereliction of duty and care towards employees”.

He said it also “bordered on reckless” to send young recruits and students to respond to the riots when they had not received any public order training.

“I think if it was a private company, the Health and Safety Authority would be carrying out an investigation.”

The conference voted on and passed a motion calling on the Commissioner to ensure every garda is issued a riot helmet and every public order garda is issued with footwear that protects the whole foot.

It also passed a motion calling for public order training for all probationer gardaí.

In response to the criticism, Garda Headquarters said 100 additional public order gardaí have been added in Dublin in the last year, bringing the total national strength to 1,000.

“It is intended to further add to the number of public order trained gardaí. Three public order courses are starting in the [Dublin Metropolitian Region] next week.”

In addition, new stronger pepper spray and smaller, more mobile riot shields are being provided to units. Plans are also under way to purchase two water cannons.

Garda management have also been criticised at the conference over the number of members taking early retirement and disciplinary measures taken by Commissioner Drew Harris which have resulted in gardaí being suspended for lengthy periods.

In an unprecedented move, Mr Harris was not invited to the conference in protest over his management.

In response, a Garda spokesman issued a statement saying the resignation rate is 1 per cent, far lower than the international average.

It said 96 gardaí are currently suspended, down from 115 last year. There have been no suspensions for on-duty activity so far this year and 14 suspensions have been lifted, the spokesman said.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times