Cutbacks in garda resources means criminals are now 'operating unhindered' in rural areas, meeting hears
Huge crowds are gathering this evening for another public meeting addressing the scourge of rural crime and the devastating impact it is having on families.
Tonight's meeting, in the Kingsbrook Hotel in Trim, Co Meath, is the latest event in the 'Save Our Communities' campaign and comes after thousands of people attended a meeting in Tipperary where people said they were now sleeping with guns at night they are so fearful of criminal gangs who roam the countryside.
Tonight's meeting is organised by the North East Save Our Community group representing people in Meath, Louth, Cavan and Monaghan.
The organisers say these counties are among the areas worst hit by crime in the country.
"Two of our gardai have been murdered in as many years and we have to endure the consequences of having the lawless border area with south Armagh on our doorsteps the policing of which is practically non-existent," the group said in a statement.
They say cutbacks in garda resources and the closure of stations means criminals are now "operating unhindered".
The group says it has a number of measures, including reform of bail laws, the introduction of electronic tagging of repeat offenders and better garda resourcing, which they say will effectively tackle the criminal gangs.
Attendees at the meeting this evening with vote to adopt these measures as part of the campaign.
Gardai have been invited to attend the meeting. But unlike the Tipperary meeting, officers have not been asked to address the crowd.
The organisers said this was because the contributions by senior officers on the last occasion was "patronising and lacked anything concrete or reassuring".
Tonight's event is chaired by Irish Independent Security Editor Paul Williams.
Victims of rural crime have been sharing their stories at the event.
One man Gerard Weldon, from just outside Cullen on the Louth/Meath border said the threat of burglary "always plays on your mind" after he was robbed in his home on three separate occasions in just two years.
"In my case they caused an awful lot of damage in the house and completely destroyed a new door I had just put in, he told Independent.ie tonight.
"It's a violation of people's space and person. I was frustrated that the Gardai told me they knew exactly who the culprits were but it took another two burglaries to be carried out before they got them."
Another man who did not wish to be named said his wife who is aged in her 70s had locked herself into her house tonight because she was so fearful of an attack while at home alone.
"It's a state of constant fear. Fear of the car in your driveway or the knock on the door and it's especially bad for older people," he said.