Northern Ireland

Water cannon lent to Garda by PSNI were never used

Garda had requested the use of the high-pressure vehicles after last year’s Dublin riots

PACEMAKER BELFAST  12.07.13. PICTURE BY DAVID FITZGERALD.Riots kick off at Woodvale as the parades are not allowed to pass Ardoyne. A man on top of a police landrover gets blown off by the water cannon.Please Byline DAVID FITZGERALD/PACEMAKER PRESS.
A man on top of a police landrover gets blown off by a water cannon in the Woodvale area of Belfast in 2013. The PSNI has recently lent two water cannon to Garda following last year's Dublin riots. PICTURE: DAVID FITZGERALD/PACEMAKER PRESS.

WATER cannon lent to Garda by the PSNI in the aftermath of last year’s Dublin riots were returned without ever having been used, it has emerged.

The Irish Times report that the machines were returned in January without being used after three months in Dublin, and that a further request had been made to borrow them.

Reportedly on standby for just one occasion at a far-right event in north Dublin this year, the high-pressure cannon were not needed after the protest was smaller than expected.

Garda sources are quoted as saying while the far right in the Republic remains a security concern, the overall number of agitators who posed a significant risk was small.

Prompted by the Dublin riots of November 23, Garda HQ are said to be developing a business case to buy their own water cannon.

In the meantime, another formal request was made to the PSNI in the event they are required for the Uefa Europa League final at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium in May.

A PSNI spokesperson said: “The Police Service of Northern Ireland has dispatched two water cannon in response to a Mutual Aid request from An Garda Síochána. These will be solely operated by An Garda Síochána officers.”

It is reported that Garda are concerned over potential violence surrounding the Uefa final, either because of security concerns around an all-British final or if it features the Italian side Roma – with an element of their fanbase having a reputation for serious violence.

 The PSNI use a water cannon on the Springfield Road, during further unrest in Belfast on April 8 2021
The PSNI use a water cannon on the Springfield Road in Belfast on April 8, 2021.

A Garda spokesperson said: “In advance of planned policing operations in the Dublin region during (the second quarter) of 2024, a further mutual assistance request for water cannon was submitted to the PSNI, and the two water cannon are available to An Garda Síochána for periods when required”.

The PSNI has used water cannon in Northern Ireland since 2005, most recently to disperse crowds after rioting erupted at an interface area of west Belfast in the summer of 2021.

At that stage, the PSNI had six of the vehicles available that were stored at various locations to allow for a quick response to public disorder incidents.

The vehicles were also used to counter loyalist rioting in 2015 after tension erupted over controversial Orange Order parades in west Belfast.

That same year, then Home Secretary Theresa May banned the use of water cannon in other UK regions, telling MPs that medical and scientific evidence suggested that granting police powers to use them “could cause serious harm.”

Dublin was rocked by riots last Thursday (PA)
Garda made the request to borrow water cannon from the PSNI after serious rioting in Dublin last year