Tuesday 26 September 2017

Fresh crisis for minister as cash to fight burglary gangs runs dry

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Frank McGrath
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Frank McGrath

Niall O'Connor and Paul Williams

A special operation set up to target the country's most prolific burglary gangs is facing a desperate funding shortfall as Garda management instead scrambles to tackle the escalating gangland crisis.

It has also emerged that not a single new detective has been appointed in Dublin since 2009, despite the fact the capital is under siege from gangland criminals.

The Irish Independent understands that the €5m committed by the Government as part of 'Operation Thor' has run dry - and no new resources have been announced.

Operation Thor was launched amid much fanfare last November as part of efforts to tackle the rural crime epidemic.

The money ringfenced at the time was reportedly used to fund additional patrols, overtime and checkpoints to keep rural communities safe.

However, senior gardaí have criticised the operation, which they say was a publicity stunt.

Well-placed sources told the Irish Independent that the success of the scheme was "exaggerated" and "inflated".

They said that the force did not provide real statistics to back up the claims rural burglaries were declining.

However, revelations that the special budget for Operation Thor has run out will heap further pressure on Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan.

Sources have revealed that senior gardaí warned the minister prior to the launch of Operation Thor that the funding would only last until March.

But it has emerged no additional money has been ringfenced.

Senior gardaí are also angered over repeated denials by the Government and the Garda Commissioner that the force is being starved of resources.

Ms Fitzgerald is also being criticised by some of her own TDs, who believe she is struggling to get a grip on the crime epidemic.

However, a spokesman for the minister insisted that there had been no funding cuts.

"The Tánaiste and the Taoiseach have made clear that An Garda Síochána will continue to be provided with the necessary resources to provide high-visibility policing and to tackle serious criminality.

"These resources are being availed of on an ongoing basis to give effect to a range of intensive operations - including Operation Thor.

"There has been no reduction in resources," the spokesman told the Irish Independent.

The two leading justice opposition spokespersons, Fianna Fáil's Jim O'Callaghan and Sinn Féin's Jonathan O'Brien, have both expressed deep concern that money is being diverted from other parts of the Garda budget to address the gangland crisis.

However, Ms Fitzgerald has insisted this is not the case.

The revelations surrounding funding come after Ms O'Sullivan insisted that there is an "adequate" level of investment to introduce the necessary changes in An Garda Síochána.

She also said she is working to ensure members of the force can report allegations of malpractice in a proper environment.

Investment

Ms O'Sullivan added that she acted "immediately" in response to the findings of the O'Higgins Commission, which looked into allegations of garda malpractice.

"We now have the opportunity to put those measures in place because we do have the investment," Ms O'Sullivan told RTÉ yesterday.

She added that An Garda Síochána has "lots of things to change".

"One of them is our approach to people who want to have a different voice and who have a different voice and who want to bring things to our attention.

"I have said from day one that dissent is not disloyalty."

Irish Independent

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