'No link in rise of crime and garda station closures' - Shatter
Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter has no regrets about closing rural garda stations and says there is no link between the move and the apparent rise in rural crime.
"I have no regrets about that at all. There is a false narrative that is run by political opponents about it," he said.
"We had, until I was minister, practically the same number of garda stations in the country as existed in 1922, when we didn't have cars, modern communication systems and computerisation.
"Certain stations were closed, including one in my constituency, on the recommendation of the Garda Commissioner because they were serving no beneficial use in crime prevention - stations that had one garda sitting in it during the day and closed at night, or two or three guards sitting in it and closed at night, which were primarily used for people to fill out their passport forms. Trained members of the garda force are better used either driving patrol cars or on the beat."
Asked if there was any link between the closure of garda stations outside Dublin and the rise in rural crime, Mr Shatter said: "No. No. No.
"Firstly, the closure in garda stations resulted in there being 61,000 additional hours available for members of An Garda Siochana to engage in regular policing, instead of desk jobs in closed stations.
"There are more guards on the beat and I secured a huge amount of additional funding for the acquisition of new garda cars."
Mr Shatter added that when he left office, legislation was already being prepared to tackle three main issues which needed to be addressed: to curtail bail being granted to repeat offenders and deny it entirely to those who commit offences when out on bail; electronic tagging of persons granted bail; and new powers so that judges could impose consecutive sentences on individuals who commit offences when out on bail.
He said: "The third thing of huge importance in relation to policing is targeted policing. We have seen in the last 12 months an increase in burglaries around the country. That is currently a problem.
"The increase in burglaries - contrary to what is being peddled by opposition politicians - isn't as a consequence of closed garda stations.
"It is a consequence of mobile criminal gangs using our motorways to descend on rural areas and burgle six houses in the one area.
"The guards need to have, as they have done in the past, targeted operations, targeting these mobile gangs. CAB targeting these groups is also of crucial importance.
"Any crime is a concern. One of the worst invasions of your privacy that any individual can experience is to be burgled. We have seen some horrific incidences.
"We had the dreadful and barbaric treatment of the Corcoran family (in the family's house in Burnchurch, outside Killenaule in Co Tipperary, early on November 21, 2013), which resulted very recently in some very lengthy sentences being imposed on the thugs who invaded the privacy of that family's home.
"But the presence of a guard in a garda station doesn't stop crime," Mr Shatter emphasised.
"It's guards in patrol cars, guards on the beat, targeted garda operations that work best," he insisted.
Yesterday, in a separate interview on Newstalk, Mr Shatter said the Criminal Assets Bureau had a greater role to play in dealing with criminal gangs involved in rural crime.
He told Talking Point with Sarah Carey that while extra gardai should be recruited as the public finances improve, the CAB should also target assets accumulated by the criminal gangs.
"The Criminal Assets Bureau has an enormous job to play in this area," Mr Shatter argued.
He added: "CAB is uniquely placed to target gangs who have clearly accumulated a substantial amount of visible wealth and to take appropriate action against them.
"And I think that should happen."