Irish police will be sent to Disneyland Paris this summer to assist Irish holidaymakers, according to widespread reports.
French Ambassador to Ireland Vincent Guérend told the Irish Mirror that the decision to send uniformed gardaí to tourist hotspots in France stems from a successful pilot scheme last summer.
As part of the pilot scheme, gardaí were sent to a number of tourist hotspots in northern France. The pilot scheme was so successful that it has now reportedly been extending to other parts of France, including the Disneyland Paris theme park located outside the French capital.
The Irish Mirror reports that uniformed gardaí will patrol the popular theme park during the summer months, offering assistance and advice to Irish tourists who need help.
Guérend also told the publication that uniformed gardaí will also be deployed during the Rugby World Cup, which will be held in France in September and October.
"We are very glad that this year again after last year, we'll have some gardai deployed in France, both on big touristic sites like in Disneyland Paris, like the Château de Chambord in the Loire Valley, like Mont Saint Michel, also in Giverny," he told the Mirror.
Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore described the decision to send gardaí to tourist hotspots as "strange", adding that she is "really perplexed" by the move.
Whitmore pointed to recent comments made by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who expressed concerns about "gardaí numbers and whether we have enough numbers of gardaí to police the far-right in this country".
She also stated that migrant campsites were being burned out "literally a stone’s throw from the Dáil".
"Indeed, you could go to any community across the country and people would like to see more gardaí on the streets," Whitmore told the Dáil on Thursday after reports surfaced in the Mirror.
"It seems like a very, very strange decision that this is actually the second year, the previous year they were sent over to another tourist spot in France to police these hotspots so that Irish tourists can see Irish gardaí if they have any questions."
Responding to Whitmore, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said the scheme may help gardaí gain "valuable insights" and described it as a learning opportunity.
He added that the Irish Government hopes to recruit 1,000 new gardaí every year.
A Garda spokesperson told IrishCentral that the scheme was launched after a request from the French authorities.
"Following a request from the French authorities, An Garda Síochána has been discussing with French policing colleagues a repeat of last year’s temporary assignment of a very small number of Gardaí to work with them in assisting Irish nationals visiting certain tourists areas of France during the summer. Such assignments are subject to approval by the Irish Government," gardaí said in a statement.
Last year, two members of An Garda Síochána were deployed in July, while a further two members were deployed in August.
German, Spanish, and Dutch police officers were also temporarily deployed to France last summer.