A FORMER Inspector has called for the Thornton Hall prison project to be built as part of measures to crackdown on the Dublin riots thuggery.
Retired Tony Gallagher, who was for 20 years attached to the North Central Division where the looting and violence took place two weeks ago, said the adult prisons are over capacity and there is few places for young criminals
He also said Gardai are afraid to tackle this kind of anti-social behaviour because their whole careers could be destroyed if they end up subject to an internal investigation.
And he called for the introduction of new laws to protect Gardai from the kind of daily abusive behaviour to which they are subjected.
He explained: “Following the incident on Parnell Square, planning now must commence on a graduated and prepared response, centralised mustering points, centralised storing of protective equipment and communication of advice of this plan to city centre retailers and public transport administrators.
“It should take on a shape similar to, but not as extensive, as the Plan Vigipirate in France. It is a security alert system, that has stages.
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“In terms of the youth – with the high density of city housing, a greater emphasis needs to be placed on amenities. It has already started in some parts of the city but it also needs to involve employment opportunities.
“In terms or punishments, Oberstown House is the National Juvenile Detention Centre but it caters for less than 100 offenders.
“The adult prisons are nearing capacity so the Thornton Hall Prison Complex needs to be revisited.”
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But despite more than €50m being spent on purchasing and servicing the site, a brick has never been laid.
The Irish Prison Service recently told the Irish Sun that one of the ideas behind the project was to once and for all rid our prisons of drugs.
Director General Caron McCaffrey said: “One of the ideas behind Thornton Hall was it was a greenfield site with a ‘cordon sanitaire’ surrounding it.
“This is an inner city prison (Mountjoy) and people can come up and, the residents will tell you, there are constantly people coming up and trying to throw substances over the perimeter wall into the prison.”
Explaining a new approach that’s needed to tackle increasing dangers on our streets, Tony Gallagher said under-resourced Gardai are being forced to put themselves in harm’s way with the threat of disciplinary action hanging over their heads.
He said: “There has been too much emphasis placed on reform, oversight bodies, and a new style of management pushed on with this perceived reform. I would suggest that the eye has been taken off what has been happening on the streets.
“Frontline gardai are experiencing suffocating oversight. They have become risk averse. Who could blame them when they have seen colleagues subjected to lengthy internal investigations, GSOC investigations and vitriolic media platform commentary.
“They have not been issued with body-cams that they have been looking for, they are likely to be suspended and subject to criminal charges if they do have the courage to act.
“The Gardai must be supported in their justified actions. I have spoken about the Public Order Act before. It is 30 years old. A new offence needs to be created – threatening and obstructive behaviour towards a Garda or a public official.
“It needs to be specific. The current Public Order Act is not sufficiently strong enough, it is not acceptable nor tolerable to have mobile phones thrust into the faces of Gardai whilst they are performing duty.
“The invasion into personal space should be categorised as an assault and have a statutory power of arrest, the phone should also be seized for evidence purposes.”
Mr Gallagher said the shocking scenes we witnessed last month had been building for some time.
He added: “A societal change has been happening. This confrontational behaviour has been building, vitriolic abuse directed at Gardai, assaults on gardai, jostling and assaults on politicians outside the seat of Government, throwing of excrement at public representatives.
“The thrusting of mobile phones in the faces of Gardai, breaching what should be appropriate social distancing space. Personal distance begins at arm’s length away.
“A few weeks ago we witnessed Gardai under attack, acts of arson on Garda vehicles, arson attacks on a Luas transporter and a Dublin Bus. We also witnessed groups of youths defiantly dancing on the roof of a Garda patrol car and destroying this vehicle outside a main Garda station.
“Youth have become emboldened as they have not been subject to sanction for their behaviour and on November 23 they were confident that they could push it further.”