GOVERNMENT plans to close Brosna garda station in rural north Kerry will turn elderly people in the community into soft targets for marauding criminals, according to furious locals who labelled the move a 'disgrace'.
The garda station is one of two earmarked for closure in north Kerry in 2013 under the latest round of government cutbacks.
Fear is heightening among the increasingly ageing population of the remote community over their security in the absence of a permanent garda presence.
Local woman Josie McCreesh who lives alone outside Brosna said she is becoming increasingly fearful for her security. Ms McCreesh fears that without gardaí nearby to call on elderly people will be more vulnerable to gangs of opportunist criminals travelling in from outside the area.
"It is a disgrace," local national school principal Thomas Roche added. "This is very serious and people are very afraid now. We see spates of robberies in rural Kerry occuring all the time."
"From a security point of view we are surrounded by forests and isolated roads where criminals will be able to operate undetected... we will be going back to the days of highway men," he said. ELDERLY people living in fear of criminals in an isolated part of north Kerry say they are devastated to learn of the closure of their local garda station.
Claiming that drug gangs are already using the isolated, heavilyforested area as a late-night transaction base, the community of Brosna is struggling to understand how the State could close its local station.
Brosna is one of two garda stations in north Kerry slated for closure in the New Year, along with Abbeydorney. Unlike Abbeydorney, however, the people of Brosna say their area is far more remote and already being targeted by criminals.
The next nearest garda station is 30kms away.
"It's absolutely disgraceful," Brosna woman Josie McCreesh told The Kerryman. "We were already calling for more hours for the garda stationed here as it was but to be told the station is going to close entirely is incredible."
Local national school principal Thomas Roche said the area could return to the days of ' highway men'. "It is all small, local roads and miles and miles of forestry, all the way to Ballydesmond, up here and people are very afraid of how we will cope without a garda station. It's a disgraceful decision.
"The population of Brosna is ageing, all our young have emigrated, and many elderly people are living alone in remote rural areas. We see more and more criminal activity in rural areas these days, it's no wonder people are so afraid. They will feel extremely vulnerable without a local garda presence."
Ms McCreesh, who lives alone three miles outside the village, said the station is a source of great 'peace of mind'.
"There are more strange cars around at night and gangs are coming into the area from west Limerick trading drugs and using the remote area to get away with it," she said.
"I live alone and it can be frightening when I hear noises around my house at night."
"There's great peace of mind having a garda station nearby. People are afraid and deeply angry over this move to close the station now. It's more and more gardaí we need here and it is very mean of them taking it away."
Meanwhile, the community alert group in Abbeydorney have also expressed their concerns at losing their local garda, saying he was an integral part of the local community.
"Our local garda was a traditional-style garda and knew everyone here and was very easy to approach, so not having a go-to garda like that will be a big blow," a spokesperson for the group said. "In the back of people's minds there is of course the fear that crime will increase because we no longer have a garda in the area, so we would encourage locals to be extra vigilant and check up on their elderly neighbours and be on the look out for any suspicious activity."