'Anti-rural' policies adding to concerns
THE days of the key left in the door have been consigned to the past of a romantic, rural Ireland that has been changing rapidly in recent years.
A spate of opportunistic crimes against the elderly and people in isolated areas has compounded fears that the country is no longer the idyllic and safe place to live it once was.
But organisations that represent the interests of rural dwellers say the closure of garda stations is only another nail in the coffin, following a litany of government policies they argue are anti-rural.
Irish Rural Link's Seamus Boland said the constant drip-feed of bad news concerning rising crime and garda station closures has heightened people's feelings of insecurity.
"People are definitely becoming more security-conscious and are investing in measures like electronic gates, alarms and outdoor lighting – things that would have been unheard of in rural areas in the past but are now increasingly being thought of as essential," he said.
Ironically, increased security measures also heighten feelings of vulnerability.
The Irish Farmers' Association deputy president Eddie Downey said that increasing security had made people "prisoners in their own homes".
"It is causing huge stress," he said. "At all our meetings, across the country, people are very anxious to talk about rural crime and trying to do something about it."
He added that it has had an impact on farm practices, even simple things such as buying diesel.
Farmers are no longer buying in bulk because of thefts from oil tanks.
The IFA has been working closely with groups like Muintir na Tire to strengthen community-based initiatives but says it's vital that a link with a nearby garda station is maintained and enhanced if these are to be successful.