independent

Thursday 2 October 2014

Garda bingo raid too easy a target

DEBORAH COLEMAN

Published 08/11/2011 | 11:33

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IT WAS a scene akin to that of Father Ted when a Co. Cork bingo hall was raided last week and the bingo books seized. The story has attracted much interest in recent days as the new venture which created 30 jobs failed to get off the ground due to a High Court order.

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The issue at hand was one of licensing and despite the fact that the bingo hall operators had links with a licensed charity the opening night was called to a halt when Gardaí raided the premises and confiscated the bingo books.

Now I'm no bingo fan but from what I know of the game it's probably a fair statement to say that it's most popular among older people. Imagine a pensioner having to endure such a raid and made to feel like a common criminal.

Gambling as it may be, a bingo hall is hardly a den of inequity. As the owners said, it's a cheap and alcohol free night out for people and is providing jobs which are desperately. Sometimes it feels like the powers that be are trying to suck every bit of light-hearted enjoyment out of society.

It's safe to say that such a launch event was not going to put any pressure on the Gardaí in the same way that pubs and nightclubs do when the late night revelry turns bad. Perhaps some venues could do with a bit more attention as they supply youngsters with cut price drinks and then send them on their merry way where often all hell breaks out once they hit the streets.

Bingo provides a much safer and comfortable environment for people, many of whom have limited options in terms of social life if they don't enjoy the pub environment. It amazes me that the court can see fit to instruct Gardaí to carry out such an operation in a matter of hours while the real criminals prove much more elusive to take in hand.

It seems like a bit of an easy target to call a halt to the likes of a bingo hall launch not to mention a poor way to use ever dwindling Garda resources. Of course officers have to comply with court direction but at a time when numbers are continually dropping these Gardaí could have been deployed to deal with some of the more serious challenges to society.

With much talk about closing rural stations should this become a reality country areas across Ireland will be destroyed by crime. Already there are marked increases in daylight burglaries with unoccupied homes like sitting ducks to well organised intruders who watch and wait for their opportunity.

This might seem like small time when compared with the headlinemaking crimes which fill the papers but to the victims it is a scourge. Every week I meet somebody who dread leaving their homes for fear of what will greet them upon their return.

Rather than cutting resources the government should be increasing them where they will make a difference to the people of this country. On the list of priorities I think many would agree that asking trained Garda officers to raid a bingo hall should be much further down and some room should be made for real threats to society to be addressed.

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