Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 11 December 2018

'Gangs are going to have a field day' - rural crime victims slam cut to garda overtime

Garda budget up by €60m to allow for recruitment of more officers, but concerns still raised over cuts to overtime

Farmer Clive Clarke from Barna, Co Offaly, whose farm and butcher’s business was robbed six times in 13 years. Photo: Selina O’Meara Photography
Farmer Clive Clarke from Barna, Co Offaly, whose farm and butcher’s business was robbed six times in 13 years. Photo: Selina O’Meara Photography
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

Rural crime victims fear cuts to garda overtime will lead to an increase in robberies and attacks, despite the Government announcing the recruitment of 800 gardaí in Budget 2019.

Farmer and butcher Clive Clarke, whose Offaly farm has been burgled six times in 13 years, believes "gangs will have a field day" with a reduction in the overtime allocation.

"We're going to be hit with a spate of crime on top of a bad summer and a bad winter," Mr Clarke told Independent.ie.

"They increased the number of checkpoints here after we experienced three years of non-stop robberies and the same gangs carrying them out, but now they're going to probably have less gardai patrolling so we're back to square one.

Clive Clarke at his farm in Barna, Co Offaly. Photo: Selina O’Meara
Clive Clarke at his farm in Barna, Co Offaly. Photo: Selina O’Meara

"We're coming into the winter, the long nights and it'll be open season. We might as well leave the gates open as it's a waste of time locking them. The guards on the ground do the best they can but if they don't have the time and equipment and means of doing their jobs, then there's nothing we can do to stop them [criminals]."

Mr Clarke said the hiring of more gardaí is welcome, but raised concerns about the safety of people in rural Ireland in the mean time as it will take time for them to be trained.

In 2016, €13,000 worth of equipment - including quad bikes, trailers, money, a tractor, road diesel, meat and butcher's knives - were taken from his premises in Barna near Moneygall.

"At what stage do they want us to go extinct? Things had improved recently but now people in rural Ireland will be living in fear again," Mr Clarke said.

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Figures from the Garda Analysis Service show that farm thefts fell by 8pc from September 2017 to August 2018.

However, the Irish Farmers' Association said there is a perception that rural crime rates are starting to decrease, but it said many crimes go unreported out of fear criminals will return.

"They certainly haven't got any better. It's more violent out there now, there is no doubt about that," IFA deputy director Richard Kennedy said.

The farming chief called for greater garda presence in rural areas after it was revealed how father-of-three Patrick Walsh (47), from Lispopple, Swords, Co Dublin, was brutally set on when he challenged four men on his land on the evening of September 2.

Mr Walsh suffered four cracked ribs, a dislocated shoulder and needed stitches to his face after he was kicked repeatedly on the ground about 150 metres from his home.

8 NEWS ick Walsh Farmer 13.jpg
Victim: Farmer Patrick Walsh, who was attacked and knocked unconscious at his farm at Lispopple last week. Photo: Frank McGrath

He became the latest victim of criminals who pretend they are using the lurchers to hunt hares while "sussing out" properties before a theft.

"The IFA has been proactive in the fight against rural crime and is calling for greater garda presence in the troubled areas of north county Dublin and across all rural communities," Mr Kennedy said.

Overtime increased across all Garda divisions in 2017 but the most significant increase was in Dublin, which accounted for 44pc of overtime.

A large proportion of the overtime bill went towards fighting organised crime.

The force was allocated an overtime budget of €90m for 2018, a significant increase on previous years.

But spending on additional hours is currently running at about €20m over budget and this will increase to €30m by the end of the year unless drastic corrective action is taken.

It was revealed today that funds will be made available for the recruitment of 800 gardaí and extra training during 2019.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) said the cut to overtime would affect the capacity of all gardaí on the frontline to do their job, particularly those involved in the investigation of crime gangs in the capital.

"The agreed overtime must now be reinstated if we are to keep our streets safe in the lead-up to Christmas," the GRA added.

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