Tuesday, 24 January 1984
Dáil Eireann Debate
Dr. Woods: asked the Minister for Justice the reason he did not correct the misleading figure of 2,000 personnel as being involved in the search operation for Mr. Tidey, especially after he visited the area.
Dr. Woods: asked the Minister for Justice the reason it was decided to use Garda recruits in the search at Ballinamore, County Leitrim in view of the dangerous mission on which they were engaged; and the number of recruits employed.
Dr. Woods: asked the Minister for Justice if he approves of the statement issued to the media by the Garda Commissioner (details supplied) that he stands over the use of recruits in such an operation as the search at Ballinamore, County Leitrim, and that he would have no hesitation in using them again.
The Deputy seems to be under some misapprehension regarding the role of the Minister for Justice in so far as operational Garda matters are concerned. These matters are within the ambit of responsibility of the Garda Commissioner.
I do not know why the Deputy should think that I as Minister for Justice had some kind of duty to contradict press reports of the number of Garda and Army personnel engaged in a particular operation (which, incidentally, was not a search for Mr. Tidey as Mr. Tidey had been freed at the relevant time). I am  informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda Press Officer indicated on 17 December that there were then between 400 and 500 members of the Force involved in the Ballinamore operation. This was a significant increase on the previous day, 16 December, when 242 members of the Force were involved — 200 members searching and 42 members on checkpoint duty.
Any communication to me regarding the decision to use recruit gardaí in the search would be a confidential communication and I do not consider that it would be appropriate that I should disclose whether there was such a communication.
I am informed that it was considered that, in view of the difficulty of the terrain and the youth, fitness and agility of the recruit gardaí, they would be if anything more effective than those older members who would also be unarmed, and, as it was essential to have some unarmed personnel on the duty in order to make up the numbers, recruit gardaí would be in no greater danger than older uniformed personnel. Ninety-five recruit gardaí took part in the operation. I propose to refer further to this matter in this evening's debate.
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