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Garda’s low vaccination prioritisation is “insulting”, says Limerick garda association chief

Garda’s low vaccination prioritization is “insulting,” says Limerick garda association chief

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LIMERICK President of the Garda Representative Association (GRA), Frank Thornton, has described the low prioritization of gardai in the national COVID-19 vaccination plan as “an insult.”

Thousands of frontline gardai have put themselves at potential risk of contracting the virus while engaging with the public and were called into action in their droves on St Patrick’s Day to ensure public health guidelines were adhered to.

Despite the threat of potentially catching the virus, gardai again turned out “for what, under normal circumstances is one of the busiest and most dangerous days in the policing calendar,” explained Thornton.

“The women and men we represent are an over-stretched workforce facing into the unknown without protection against a deadly virus that could infect them, and as a consequence, their families and the public,” he offered.“The GRA is focused on the safety, health, and welfare of our members. Policing in ordinary times is a dangerous occupation, but the current pandemic has brought additional risks – as we have seen in recent weeks.“

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—Attacks—

“Whether policing a large protest in a busy city center or attending a house party in rural Ireland, our members are increasingly on the receiving end of vicious attacks and assaults,” Thornton said.

Paying “a tribute to the members I represent and recognizing their outstanding contribution to the national effort to suppress this pandemic in the last year,” Thornton described members of the force “flexibility, commitment and dedication” as “simply phenomenal. “

“Our members have changed rosters at short notice and adapted to ever-changing guidelines, regulations, and restrictions with very little guidance or training.“

—Confrontation a last resort—

Thornton argued that “despite policing and enforcing restrictions that severely restrict the fundamental freedoms that every citizen takes for granted, the professionalism and compassion shown by members have avoided confrontation and the need for enforcement on many, many occasions.”

“We have also seen gardaí supporting our most vulnerable and isolated citizens, and I believe it is important to recognize and acknowledge what the members we represent are facing daily.”

Gardai are routinely “exposed to the type of incidents that occur when alcohol is involved, such as public order and assaults, and the pandemic has seen a rise in domestic violence which international research shows is the greatest danger to police personnel.”

Thornton said, “gardaí are also increasingly finding themselves as the first responders to people experiencing a mental health crisis, an all-too-common occurrence during the pandemic.”“The Government and society have looked to gardaí in our time of crisis, and we have consistently delivered. We have seen incredible demands placed on our members, and time after time, they stepped up to the plate and did whatever was asked of them.“

Despite the risks, gardai working “on the frontline dealing with the fallout from this crisis cannot shy away from the dangers they and their families face.”

“The fact that gardaí are among the only first responders on the frontline who are not being prioritized for vaccination is a source of anger and frustration,” reiterated Thornton.

“Placing gardaí at number 10 on the vaccination rollout plan is an insult to the women and men who have contributed so much to date,” he argued.

Thornton is to discuss his concerns today with Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and explain “that it’s time the critical role gardaí play in controlling the pandemic, saving lives and keeping the economy going is properly recognized; and the sacrifice they and their families have made over the past year be respected.”

 

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