When Gardaí shoot to kill
The shooting dead of John Carthy at his home in Abbeylara, County Longford last week once again calls into question the use of lethal force by the Gardaí.
The shooting cannot be viewed in isolation but is one of a number of controversial killings by Gardaí in recent years. These include the shooting dead of INLA member John Morris in Inchicore, Dublin in June 1997 and the fatal shooting during a Garda ambush of Ronán Mac Lochlainn at Ashford, County Wicklow in May 1998.
Most of these controversial shootings have involved members of the Garda Emergency Response Unit (ERU), who were again involved in the operation at Abbeylara. ERU members view themselves as a heavily-armed elite, akin to special forces in the US and other states.
The deployment of the ERU in a high profile manner and in large numbers at Abbeylara was inappropriate and provided for only one outcome. It has since been reported that the unit is not equipped or trained for less-than-lethal responses to sieges.
There is understandable anger in Abbeylara at the tragic killing of John Carthy, which is seen as entirely unnecessary and unwarranted. Locals have criticised both the Garda and media handling of the situation, which they believed increased tension and complicated the situation.
The shroud of secrecy which surrounds Garda rules of engagement in situations involving the use of firearms renders meaningless any inquiry conducted by that force into the events at Abbeylara.
It also makes the calls for an independent inquiry into this latest Garda killing all the more valid. Such an inquiry should be launched immediately.