Garda cuts leave rural areas further abandoned
JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter's plan to close 100 garda stations has understandably led to an outcry across the country.
The minister says most of these are only open part-time and that Ireland will, proportionately, still have more police stations than other European countries.
Mr Shatter also claims the closures are not being driven by cost-cutting, but a move to make the gardai more effective by freeing them up to do more frontline policing. It is argued community policing will not be diminished, with a new patrolling system bridging the gap.
However, the rationale of the minister is difficult for many to accept – particularly in rural Ireland, which has been increasingly abandoned the deeper the recession gets.
Many communities have watched in horror as their local services have been eroded. Banks, post offices, pubs and corner shops have disappeared from provincial towns and villages with alarming frequency.
Now, the loss of the local garda station will come as another hammer blow.
People want to feel safe in their community and they want to know they can drop into a station and talk to their local garda. The loss of this service is a backwards step.
Many of the stations being closed are in areas with little crime, but there is more to the work of a garda than catching criminals. Much of what they do goes unseen. Intervening to calm disputes, steering children away from crime and checking on elderly people are just some examples.
But under the new "response" model, these sort of interventions are much less likely to happen and the bond between the force and the community will loosen.