There was some initial reasonable concern given the current legislative changes. A business being set up to provide training courses right as legislative changes to make more training mandatory are being lobbied for by a small minority was always going to cause those concerns and the lack of details surrounding the affair was always going to exacerbate that. This is Ireland, that's life here. Now that the details are out, I don't think those concerns are as much of a worry as they were.
And as a side note, the way the company was registered was not ever a concern, it's a common way of doing that kind of thing, hundreds of companies have been founded that way, it's a commercial service that's not involved in our sport and that aspect of it is all above board and normal.
I'll refrain from commenting on this specific company if you don't mind. I think you all know my thoughts regarding at least one of its directors. There's not a lot of point in going over that; you have a search function on the board if you're that interested in it.
I do however, think something stinks about this particular industry in general
and here's as good a place to talk about that as any.
First off, the industry is perfectly legal, and was deliberately created by a Minister for Justice. There's no question of illegality or perfidity here. There are those who think it's even beneficial, and in the ideal they have a good point, but in the real world there's this big stinking problem that they're ignoring and it's this:
There is no regulation of firearms training in Ireland.
There's absolutely none. Not one single law, not one single official who oversees it, not one national standard, nothing. Almost everyone and his dog can happily rock up and start a course to train people in how to use firearms (and if you want to see how badly that can go, just google the phrase "Baron Shorttarse"
). We all know of RFDs - and we're not going to name them specifically here because the Defamation Act is tiresome at best - who run courses over the course of an hour or less that people then use as proof of competency in licence applications, and we also know of competency courses run by national bodies and by ranges. And, be fair now, some of these are good basic safety courses run by well-meaning competent people. A few of those people even have the kind of training you need to teach
something (which is an incredibly different set of training and skills to those you need to do
that thing well). And a very very few people in Ireland are actually really good coaches, but they're really in a different industry so I'm not counting them here. I'm thinking of the basic safety/basic instruction field here.
The problem is, while we have a lot of good people trying their best, we have nobody vetting these courses to weed out the chancers setting up courses to make money who aren't actually teaching basic safety well. There's no standards for the courses to meet, no curriculum, no training of the trainers, nothing. There aren't even any consumer rights really, because you can go to person X, pay them for a course, do the course and "pass" it (sorry, but if there's no standard for the course, saying you pass or fail is a meaningless statement, it's like saying you won the race on the M50 on the way to work) -- and then the local Garda Superintendent can say "No, I won't accept this as proof of competence"
and you can't get your money back, you can't sue person X for failing to provide the proof of competence you were seeking, you have no recourse at all. This is why we've been saying for years to ask the Super for the course first, which is a bad state of affairs to start with because it results in an effective state-sponsored monopoly in each garda district, but the alternative seemed worse.
Incidentally, yes, there are non-national bodies who will certify courses (you're all thinking of the NRA, but many others do it too, like the NSRA, the UK NRA, the ISSF, and many others, and people have been doing those courses in Ireland for a while now). But those non-national certifications mean absolutely zip in a licence application. The NRA says you're safe? Well that's nice, but unless your local Garda accepts that, it means nothing. And if he or she declines to accept it, then you have no recourse - the lack of standards means the Gardai have no requirement to accept non-national accreditations here.
And this is before you get to the thorny problem of what happens if someone is trained in one of these courses, doesn't learn basic safety but "passes" anyway and then goes on to hurt themselves, or someone else, or worse. Who's legally liable then? And what will the fallout be for the community as a whole?
We got dumped in this appalling situation by a Minister for Justice who, frankly, made a huge mess out of the Ministry he was given and who then just flounced off out of public life completely afterwards, but nobody's ever cleaned up the mess he made. Instead, some
(not all) people have been opportunistically profiting off it and exacerbating the situation.
For example, we've been talking here about safety courses and proof of competence as though the former was the sole method to gain the latter; and not only is that not the case, it is deliberately not the case
. Courses were never seen as being the norm, they were seen as being one way to provide competence, a new way, brought in alongside the established ways of direct instruction that we'd had since before the founding of the state. There's nothing wrong with having courses, if they're done right, but they were never supposed to take over from everything else, and especially not when they were this unregulated.
And this current push to try to get us to introduce graduated licencing is just going to make things even worse by increasing the demands for proof of competence and creating even more opportunities for commercial exploitation.
So like I said, the industry is perfectly legal. But it stinks
. It's not safe, it's not good for the sport, it's not good for those in the sport, and it's only good for a few who are profiting off it. It badly needs regulation and standardisation and groups like FETAC to get involved for that to happen. And absolutely nobody is pushing for that to happen anymore.