The Garda Representative Association has voted that all gardaí be specially trained in how to deal with explosives and firearms incidents.

It also favoured training for the range of guns they may deal with in the course of their duties.

The GRA annual conference was told this morning that a third of all call outs for the Army Bomb Disposal Team was to a viable device with the capacity to maim or kill.

The conference heard that the vast majority of gardaí receive no training in how to deal with firearms incidents.

It was also told that gardaí are driving patrol cars, but are not allowed to activate the sirens or turn on the blue lights in the case of an emergency.

Garda Ultan Sherlock told the conference in Killarney that this "farcical situation" has arisen because they have not been specially trained.

He said their driving licences do not permit them to react in emergency situations.

Garda Jim Mulligan said members of the force were at risk of being disciplined if they acted in the case of an incident and at risk of a complaint from a member of the public if they did not.

GRA members have voted that this situation be reviewed.

Other issues discussed at the conference included the increase in number of assaults against gardaí.

The association has claimed that the problem of attacks on gardaí is twice as bad as had been previously thought.

The association said the number of recorded assaults has doubled since a new recording system was introduced in October last year.

It is calling on the Government to publish statistics on assaults on an annual basis.

Assaults on gardaí had been registered at around 400 a year.

However, GRA Deputy General Secretary John Healy said the annual figure is set to reach up to 1,000, as offences such as threats are now being included.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Seán O'Rourke, Garda Ray Whims from Sligo welcomed the new reporting system, but said he was shocked at the number of gardaí who have been victims of assault.

He said: "It is good to know now we're finally getting official figures. Now they have a system in place of recording actual assaults on duty.

"It is shocking to realise that there are up on 1,000 assaults when we have 12,000 members."

Interim Commissioner has support of GRA

The GRA said Interim Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan has its full support and its president John Parker described her as a unifying force.

Mr Parker said Ms O'Sullivan is very engaged and is interacting with the representative associations.

He said the GRA is looking forward to a fruitful working relationship.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Parker said she had shown an aptitude for the job and possessed a management style they could engage with.

He said she appeared to be the ideal candidate for the job.

Mr Parker also said the Minister for Justice was not invited to address delegates because of what the association sees as a lack of engagement and the absence of movement towards the proper resourcing of the force.

He said it had made a similar decision last year and it was felt that nothing had changed in the interim.

Mr Parker said resources were on a drip feed and recruitment was barely keeping pace with natural attrition rates.

He said an appearance by Alan Shatter at the conference would be providing "a soapbox for spin".