Garda Armed Support Unit

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Garda Armed Support Unit
Aonad Tacaíochta faoi Airm
Agency overview
Formed2008 (pilot), 2012 (5 regions), 2016 (Dublin region)
Jurisdictional structure
National agency
(Operations jurisdiction)
Republic of Ireland
Operations jurisdictionRepublic of Ireland
Legal jurisdictionEastern, Northern, Southern, South-Eastern, Western and Dublin regions
Governing bodyDepartment of Justice
General nature
Operational structure
Operators~ 180[1]
Agency executive
Parent agencyBadge of An Garda Síochána.gif Garda Síochána
SpecialtiesSpecialist armed/tactical response
Armed airport and port patrols
VehiclesBMW 5 Series
Audi Q7
Volvo XC70
Ford Transit

Armed Support Units (ASU) (Irish: Tacaiochta Faoi Arm) are specialist armed response units of the Garda Síochána, the national police force of Ireland. Based in all six Garda regions in the country, Garda ASU officers carry a combination of lethal firearms and non-lethal weapons, as opposed to regular uniformed Gardaí who are unarmed. They are similar to Authorised Firearms Officers of British police forces.

Armed Support Units were known as Regional Support Units (RSU) until mid-2017.[citation needed]


A Garda Armed Support Unit may be called out to support local Garda officers in certain high-risk operations.[2] This principally involves offering armed assistance to otherwise unarmed Gardaí who are dealing with an incident in which firearms or other weapons (knives, etc.) have been produced. It also includes:[3][4]

  • Confronting and disarming persons who are carrying knives or guns
  • Saving a person's life through use of a defibrillator which they carry and are qualified to use
  • Providing tactical support to other gardaí carrying out searches
  • Carrying out high visibility static and rolling checkpoints and other operations to counteract the movements of criminals
  • Overt armed airport and port patrols to counter terrorist attacks[5]


The first Regional Support Unit (RSU) was formed in 2008,[6] following recommendations made by the Barr Tribunal, which brought the existence and role of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) to public attention (April 2000, see Death of John Carthy), and questioned the Dublin-based units' ability to reach other areas of the country quickly.[7][8]

Regional Support Units were originally assigned to support five individual Garda regions – administrative areas drawn on geographical lines which include the Eastern, Northern, Southern, South-Eastern and Western regions – but not the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR), which had remained the sole responsibility of the ERU.[9] The first RSU was formed on a pilot basis in the Southern Region (the administrative area which includes counties Cork, Limerick and Kerry).[6][9]

As of 2012, RSU units began operating on a full-time permanent armed basis in the Eastern, Northern, Southern, South-Eastern and Western regions after a trial period.[10][11][12][13] Serious incidents such as barricaded sieges, hostage takings or terrorism triggers the response of the ERU anywhere in Ireland.

In 2016 it was decided that a sixth Regional Support Unit be established in the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) to counteract the growing threat of gangland drug crime and terrorism risks.[14] Previously the Dublin Garda region had been under the authority of the Garda ERU. As part of this process, the name Regional Support Unit was replaced by the term Armed Support Unit (ASU).[citation needed]

The Dublin ASU began operating in early 2016 with a complement of 55-60 full-time armed officers, including 5 sergeants.[15] The Dublin-based unit is equipped with marked and unmarked vehicles,[16] and was officially launched in late 2016.[17]

In April 2016 it was confirmed that Armed Support Units would be deployed overtly to patrol both Dublin Airport and Dublin Port full-time on foot inside terminal buildings and via vehicles outside and surrounding the perimeter, carrying personal defense weapons, sidearms, tasers and other specialist equipment to counter the rising threat of terrorist attacks in Europe.[18][19]

Training and manpower[edit]

Garda ASU officers undergo training over a thirteen-week period, which includes instruction in:

The Garda ERU are responsible for ASU training. Some ASU officers later go on to join the ERU. The membership of the Armed Support Unit consists exclusively of serving officers in the Garda Síochána, who must have at least 4 years experience and a clean disciplinary record.

There are Armed Support Units in all six regions, each has at least 24 members (Dublin has 55 to 60 members),[20] putting the overall manpower at more than 175.[8] The command of the ASU is the Regional Detective Superintendent.[6] The ASU falls under the Garda's Special Operations & Tactics Command.

Notable incidents[edit]

On 30 December 2020, the ASU shot and killed George Nkencho in front of his west Dublin home after graduated attempts to disarm him failed.[21][22][23] The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission launched an investigation into the circumstances of his death.[24]



Members of the Armed Support Units are equipped similarly to members of the Special Detective Unit (SDU) and Emergency Response Unit.[6][25]

ASU weapons include;

ASU units also carry less-lethal weapons, such as;


A Garda Armed Support Unit (ASU) response vehicle

Armed Support Units operate Volvo V70 XC70 (police variant) and Audi Q7 vehicles.[8] Also introduced in late 2016 were BMW 5 Series Touring vehicles, costing €70,000 each with a top speed of 233 km/h (145 mph), replacing the older fleet of XC70s.[27] In late 2017 BMW X5s were also introduced, along with one Ford Transit tactical support van.[citation needed]

The ASU vehicles are specially modified[8] and distinguishable from other Garda vehicles by battenburg markings, the words "ARMED SUPPORT UNIT" on the doors and a distinctive red stripe along each side.[25] The Volvo XC70s featured a light bar on the roof with an illuminated red message scroller bearing the term "GARDA ARMED SUPPORT UNIT", however newer vehicles feature a low profile light bar and XC70s in service in Dublin have been refitted with a more standard light bar.[citation needed] Older vehicles have been remarked to match the current style (original vehicles did not feature the red stripe and had a different, slightly less bright reflective pattern).

Patrol vehicles contain an equipment drawer and shelves in the boot to carry weapons and other tactical equipment.[28][17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Groups of uniformed gardai to be fully armed in shake-up". Irish Independent. 1 January 2014. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  2. ^ RTE News - Armed garda response units operating - 3 September 2008
  3. ^ Garda Press office - Searches in the Shannon and Limerick areas - 16/10/08
  4. ^ Irish Independent - New armed garda squad to take on city gang bosses - 22 September 2007
  5. ^ "National Rollout of Regional Support Units Complete May 9th 2012 - South Eastern Region Unit Launched". 9 May 2012. An Garda Síochána. Archived from the original on 23 May 2014. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d e Garda Press office - Garda Commissioner launches Regional Support Units - 2/09/08
  7. ^ a b RTE News - New armed garda unit for midlands - 28 August 2009
  8. ^ a b c d "Quick-change armed Gardai hit the streets". Irish Independent. 4 September 2008. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  9. ^ a b Annual Report of An Garda Síochána - 2008
  10. ^ Annual Report of An Garda Síochána - 2009
  11. ^ Irish Times - Garda armed response unit launched for eastern region - 8 August 2009
  12. ^ Department of Justice - Press Releases - Justice Minister Dermot Ahern launches New Garda Response Unit in Western Region - 25 June 2010
  13. ^ Donegal Division Policing Plan of An Garda Síochána - 2010
  14. ^ "New armed garda unit to monitor growing terror threat in Dublin". Sunday World. 13 January 2016. Archived from the original on 2016-02-15. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  15. ^ "No chief for new Armed Support Unit in Dublin". Irish Examiner. 14 December 2016.
  16. ^ "Permanent armed Garda response unit for Dublin in wake of gangland shootings". Irish Independent. 2 February 2016. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  17. ^ a b c "Armed units will not change Garda image, says Nóirín O'Sullivan". Irish Times. 14 December 2016.
  18. ^ Lally, Conor (23 March 2016). "Gardaí to begin armed policing at Dublin Airport". The Irish Times. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  19. ^ "Armed Gardaí to patrol Dublin Airport in response to Brussels attacks". Newstalk. 24 March 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  20. ^ "Dramatic footage is backdrop to news that it will take six months to set up armed response unit". Irish Examiner. 11 February 2016. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  21. ^ Hussey, Sinéad (2020-12-30). "Man dies after being shot by gardaí in west Dublin". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  22. ^ MacNamee, Garreth. "Man shot dead by gardaí in Clonee named locally as George Nkencho". Retrieved 2020-12-31.
  23. ^ Gorman, Claire (2020-12-31). "Brother of George Nkencho demands 'justice' over death". Irish Mirror. Retrieved 2020-12-31.
  24. ^ O’Keeffe, Cormac (2020-12-30). "Probe under way after man fatally shot by gardaí". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 2020-12-31.
  25. ^ a b RTE News video - Armed garda response units operating[permanent dead link]
  26. ^ Irish Independent - Commuter-belt garda squad to carry new armour-piercing submachine gun - 30 August 2009
  27. ^ "Gardai will be driving Beamers to keep up with the criminals". Kildare Now. 11 October 2016. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  28. ^ O'Connor, Niall; Ryan, Phillip (20 October 2015). "Gardai splashing millions on high-powered vehicles to tackle burglary gangs". Sunday World. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 14 November 2015.

External links[edit]