Sunday 23 October 2016

Angry public will send a clear message to politicians who neglected crime fight

Paul Williams

Published 14/11/2015 | 02:30

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The choreographed fanfare which accompanied the announcements of tough new bail legislation for repeat offenders and a nationwide Garda crackdown has failed to assuage the collective anger and fear of the people in rural Ireland.

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The decision to hold a second 'monster' public meeting in Trim, Co Meath on Tuesday, November 24, to highlight the issue of crime in the north-eastern region sends a clear message to the Government - we haven't gone away, you know.

The organisers, all of whom are victims of crime, have slammed Operation Thor as "a joke" and a "cynical stunt" designed to distract attention from a major electoral headache. Ronnie Owens, the chairman of the organising committee for the Trim meeting, denounced the Garda crackdown and said that Operation Thor would be better renamed "Operation Blur".

And Malachy Sullivan, his fellow committee member, said: "Operation Thor is nothing but a joke - it is only a temporary measure intended to kick the can down the road to get Garda management and the Government off the hook and the far side of an election."

Such angry words coming out of the mouths of respectable, law-abiding members of the silent majority in society are unprecedented and should set off alarm bells.

This meeting is a continuation of the 'Save our Local Communities' campaign, which attracted over 2,000 concerned citizens to Thurles in October.

It was the culmination of a spontaneous gathering of a small group of businessmen, farmers and residents from the village of Littleton in Tipperary, who exposed how their rural idyll was being plagued by crime gangs.

Their efforts, which have been wholeheartedly supported by the Irish Independent, succeeded in forcing the issue into the public narrative.

What it also succeeded in doing was lay bare the fact that the Government neglected the country people and even took their acquiescence for granted.

It is a sad indictment that neither Garda management nor politicians saw this coming.

Frances Fitzgerald, the Justice Minister, has rushed together legislation - which she announced no less than three times - to prevent repeat offenders obtaining bail.

Operation Thor has been given a budget of €5m, which will basically pay overtime because there are no longer enough gardaí to provide a proper service.

But neither initiative has done anything to ameliorate the angry masses of decent folk who have had enough.

In many ways, the organisers of the north-east regional meeting on November 24 have even more pressing issues to discuss than their friends in Tipperary.

On the northern side of the border lies south Armagh, 'Bandit Country', which is the most lawless enclave in western Europe - where republican godfathers run their organised crime empires with impunity.

This gangsters' paradise, which has been left untouched by the authorities on both sides of the frontier for far too long, is the base for some of the island's most dangerous gangs. These gangs have been robbing and terrorising the people in the border hinterland because the depleted Garda divisions don't have the necessary manpower.

The rank-and-file gardaí in this region have paid more than a heavy price for their loyalty, with the murders of two fine officers in the line of duty.

Ronnie Owens, Malachy Sullivan and their fellow organisers are justified in expecting another "monster" meeting.

Irish Independent

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