Fianna Fáil to blame for increase in burglaries, says Minister Fitzgerald
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has blamed the burglary epidemic sweeping rural Ireland on the "appalling" economy the Government inherited from Fianna Fáil.
Ms Fitzgerald's comments come as she committed to recruiting 500 more gardaí next year in an attempt to alleviate growing concerns over the worrying increase in home burglaries.
She said addressing the rural crime crisis is a "high priority" for the Government - but insisted the burglary "crime wave" is a result of Fianna Fáil's management of the public finances over more than a decade.
"A lot of the concerns in relation to burglary are a direct consequence of the economic situation we inherited which led to the gardaí having their resources cut and resulted in Templemore closing its doors after the recruitment freeze," Ms Fitzgerald told the Irish Independent.
Her comments follow a campaign by the Irish Independent to highlight the plight of rural families living in fear of burglars.
The minister pledged to invest more in high-powered garda vehicles and an overhaul of the force's technology.
However, she said there was no plans to open more garda stations despite demands from people living in rural areas.
Yesterday, at a passing out ceremony for 94 new recruits at the Garda College in Templemore, Ms Fitzgerald said she is "determined to keep burglars off the streets".
"Burglary of a person's home is a heinous and traumatic crime. It can have a devastating impact on our sense of security within our homes," she said. Garda statistics show 75pc of burglaries are carried out by repeat offenders.
Ms Fitzgerald said new legislation, going through the Dáil in the current session will ensure serial burglars, who are causing much of the distress around the country, will be dealt with very effectively in the district court and face longer sentences for their crimes.
She said garda operational strategy combating burglary under Operation Fiacla had so far led to over 14,000 arrests resulting in almost 8,000 criminal charges being brought in the last three years.
She said the Garda College had been re-opened last September for the first time since 2009 and it would not be closed again.
Ms Fitzgerald said she accepted the recommendations of the Fennelly report but admitted there were lessons about protocols and procedures to be learnt by both politicians and gardaí.
If it was found that new protocols were required in relation to the possession of mobile phone sim cards and notes, then they would be introduced.
She said the interim report of the Fennelly commission was clear that there was no intention to sack Martin Callinan as Garda Commissioner - and she maintained he had options when he made his decision to retire.
She argued that Taoiseach Enda Kenny had a decision to make on what was the best way forward when Mr Callinan retired and indicated it should take effect immediately rather than wait for three months.