Monday 26 September 2016

Border area needs more than just 25 extra gardaí

Published 20/10/2015 | 02:30

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan at Dundalk Garda Station after the murder of Garda Anthony Golden
Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan at Dundalk Garda Station after the murder of Garda Anthony Golden

Only the deluded would deny that criminals have taken advantage of the declaration of the ceasefire and the dilution of garda numbers in the Border region. In August, Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan found her credibility on the line after Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald demanded that the IRA threat be reassessed in light of the murder of Kevin McGuigan.

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At the time, reports cited senior gardaí who admitted the commissioner's then claim that the force had no "information or intelligence" on IRA activity was a grave mistake. Much has changed since then. When observance of the law becomes "notional", the issue must rapidly become one of enforcement.

The murder of Garda Tony Golden can be a watershed for the force, where cutbacks and closures can end once and for all. We now see 25 gardaí are to be transferred from stations in Dublin to the Border area.

The move will be reinforced by a sweeping plainclothes operation. It seems Commissioner O'Sullivan met senior officers in Dundalk after Garda Golden's funeral, who freely spoke of their concerns.

And so a couple of dozen extra gardaí will be sent in, but this presumably is only a stopgap measure. The North has specific threats which demand a strategic review.

Several Border areas have seen the garda presence scaled back and this vacuum is preyed on by dissidents and thugs.

Local units have already dismissed the number of extra gardaí as "wholly inadequate".

The death of Garda Golden, less than three years after another Dundalk-based officer, Adrian Donohoe, was murdered in cold blood, underlines the gravity of the threat.

Losing Walsh is a body blow for Irish boxing

Boxing is all about taking blows, but the news that head coach Billy Walsh will no longer reign at the IABA seems like a very cruel one. It is too easy to say that Walsh's gift was that he simply prepared athletes to box. You don't tell high-performance athletes how to fight. There is so much more to it than hitting, harder or more frequently; it is as much in the head as it is in the hands. Walsh knew how it was done. He led Ireland to Olympic, World and European gold medals.

With such a record, the world was his prize, but by his own admission he would have preferred to stay doing what he has been doing here for five decades. Instead, he is now going to cross the Atlantic and work in the United States.

"Regrettably, the IABA have not made it possible for me to continue," a disconsolate Walsh said yesterday.

An eight-month period of protracted negotiation ended in failure, but the big loser will be the generations of athletes to come who will not get to learn the art of the sweet science from the master.

Unlike other sports, the fighter is always alone in the ring, but the craft is honed with the help of others and this is where Billy Walsh excelled and left an indelible mark on his protégés. They could compete anywhere in the world and victory was always within their fist.

Boxers work with what they have got and what they know. No-one knows more than Billy Walsh. It really shouldn't have ended this way.

He claims to be hugely grateful but the debt of gratitude is surely owed by generations of Irish fight fans.

Irish Independent

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