Almost 6 out of every 10 requests for armed escorts for the transportation of dangerous criminals were denied last year, according to new figures obtained by Fianna Fáil.

In reply to questions from the Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Justice Niall Collins, the Minister for Justice has confirmed that the prison service requested an armed garda escort for prisoner transfers on 166 occasions last week.  Only 69 of these requests could be granted.

Deputy Collins has said it’s another example of cuts in garda resources putting communities at risk.

“It is shocking to think that so many violent prisoners are being transported through our streets without an armed guard.  The requests for armed escorts are only made when the prison service believes that a convicted criminal is dangerous enough to attempt an escape or to pose a very serious threat to public safety.  It is completely unacceptable that only 4 out of every 10 requests could be filled last year.

“Just a few weeks ago, a violent prisoner escaped while being transported from the high-security Portlaoise Prison to Tallaght Hospital in Dublin.  Both prison officers accompanying him were stabbed during the escape.   We cannot allow a situation where such dangerous and violent criminals can run free because the resources aren’t there for safe and secure transportation.

“This is clearly a resources issue.  Garda resources have been slashed to the bone.  Numbers in the force have fallen far below what the Government itself has admitted is a safe level.  We are facing a retirement exodus from the force, with no new qualified gardaí ready to fill the major gaps in frontline policing.  Taking into consideration the officers who are eligible to retire right now, the numbers who are on sick leave on any given day and the numbers on incentivised career breaks, the reality is that the number of active members on the force could drop way below 11,000 tomorrow.

“The impact of the drastic cuts to garda resources and the complete decimation of support for our gardaí is being seen in communities across the country, with a spike in crime, drugs and anti-social behaviour.   And now we are seeing the very serious impact on security around the transport of violent criminals.  The repercussions of not providing adequate security when transporting violent criminals through our communities are far too serious.  I am calling on the Minister for Justice and the Garda Commissioner to immediately address this problem.  Yet another serious gap in our policing service has been exposed due to savage cuts to resources.”