The health and safety of Ireland’s emergency services was under the spotlight at this year’s Garda Representative Association (GRA) annual conference in Galway, with firearms training and public order units among the motions up for discussion at the two-day conference in Galway.

Representing over 10,500 rank-and-file Gardaí, the GRA is calling for an audit on the number and nature of assaults on its members, which frequently go unreported. It comes amid attacks on male and female Gardaí, in both Dublin and Mayo in recent weeks.

John Parker, who is GRA’s representative for the Cork North Division, said they’re calling for public order units to be kept of stand-by around the country. In interview with Newstalk before the start of this year’s conference on 25 April in Galway, he said: “There can often be flare-ups, even in the regional towns and some of the smaller cities.

“One minute there is a large crowd out enjoying themselves and on another occasion a group of people intent on creating mayhem get involved. This necessitates a deployment of a public order unit who are properly resourced, properly kitted out; rather than your uniformed frontline guard responding with very little protective equipment.”

Garda Parker said that the GRA is also calling for mandatory sentences for assaults on all emergency personnel. “Fire brigade, ambulance, prison officers and other frontline service workers perform this duty on a daily basis in the knowledge that at any time they might be attacked, the attack will be unannounced and they may be unprepared,” he said.

“In general a lot of this only comes to light when perhaps a local newspaper takes up the story and reports on the severity of the assault.”

The association has said that over 5,400 Gardaí were injured in the line of duty since 2006. Five officers have been killed. Separately the GRA has warned that there is still a staff shortage at supervisory rank in Bailieboro in Cavan despite the recommendations of the O’Higgins Commission Report.

The Commission identified a number of Garda investigative failings and highlighted the absence of supervisors in the district.