Tuesday 27 September 2016

Rural crime focus switches to north-east

Huge attendance predicted for public meeting in Trim

Paul Williams

Published 25/11/2015 | 02:30

The people of rural Ireland voiced their concerns over crime at a recent meeting Photo: Steve Humphreys
The people of rural Ireland voiced their concerns over crime at a recent meeting Photo: Steve Humphreys

Rural crime remains a burning issue despite the flood of announcements from garda HQ and the Government that the issue is being tackled.

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The anouncements about new bail legislation for repeat offenders and a six month long nationwide garda crackdown has done nothing to assuage the anger and fear of the people living in rural Ireland.

And tonight the people of the rural northeast will get their opportunity to speak out about the crime scourge they have endured in silence for years.

The 'Save Our Local Communities' campaign is hosting a public meeting in the Knightsbrook Hotel in Trim from 8pm to highlight the issue of crime in this region.

Organised by a group of concerned civic-minded citizens from Louth, Meath, Monaghan, Cavan and Westmeath, it is a continuation of the national debate on rural crime which was launched in Thurles last month and attracted over 2,000 people.

The chairman of the organising committee Ronnie Owens has said that the garda operation is proof that people power does work.

"This operation as we said before is a knee-jerk, political whitewash to get the Government over the hump until the other side of the election - we feel that we can extract much more from them for the people by using the power of the people," he says.

"The reaction we are receiving so far suggests that this should be another monster meeting and we are delighted to have the wholehearted support of the IFA and the GAA," Mr Owens added.

This is a purely community-based, non-political forum organised by citizens. Many of them are victims of crime who are united by their concerns about crime.

In many ways the north- eastern region has a much more acute crime problem than anything witnessed in Tipperary or its surrounding counties.

In this area two gardai have been murdered on duty in as many years and violent, mostly Republican gangs, operate with impunity along a lawless frontier, which has been left virtually unpoliced for years.

The main item on the agenda tonight will be the chronic lack of garda resources in the region, which was laid bare after the murder of Garda Tony Golden in Omeath, County Louth.

Other issues for discussion will include the electronic tagging of suspects while on bail, and the need to generally tighten up the bail laws for once and for all.

The organisers have also issued an open invite to all politicians in the region as well as representatives of garda management, but neither group will be asked to address the audience.

'Siege mentality'

Meanwhile, IFA president Eddie Downey has warned that electric gates, CCTV cameras and other security measures are being erected "all over the place" over fears of marauding criminals targeting rural homes.

Break-ins in the countryside are not only devastating families but are having a ripple effect right throughout entire communities.

"There is an almost siege mentality in rural Ireland now," he told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality.

"When you switch on your alarm at night, you feel not quite like you're in a prison but that you are locked in here. It is creating a real fear factor."

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