'Rural Ireland is a playground for criminal gangs and drug lords'

Garda Stock Photo
Garda Stock Photo

Eoghan MacConnell

Political indifference has turned rural Ireland into a playground for criminal gangs and drug lords, a party leader has claimed.

Renua Ireland Leader Councillor John Leahy said “the only response to rising crime has been closing Garda stations.” 

“This has created the situation where, be it in the West, the Border or the Midlands, the people are under siege from thieves and drug warlords intent on expanding their empires,” he claimed. 

“Rural Ireland has become a playground for criminal gangs because of political indifference to the plight of rural communities. The government has, over the last decade, staged a managed retreat from rural policing,” Cllr Leahy stated.  

He argued that criminals are capable of making risk assessments and have, in what he believes is the absence of rural gardai, made the most of Ireland’s network of motorways. 

In a jibe at Minister for Transport Shane Ross, Cllr Leahy pointed out that crime existed in areas other than Dublin's Stepaside, a reference to a re-opening of its closed Garda Station. 

He insisted it was time to get tough on crime. “We do not want people jailed for 20 years for stealing a Mars bar.  But they should go down for terrorising a farmer and they should go down for 20 years as should paedophiles such as Tom Humphries,” argued Cllr Leahy.  

“People are losing respect for a law system that only protects the rights of defendants. Thugs and gangsters have made a playground of rural Ireland.  Virtual terror has been imposed on people particularly in rural counties. Our culture, our lifestyle has been taken away from us. We no longer can leave our key in the back door,” Cllr Leahy remarked.  

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Offaly North Tipperary TD Carol Nolan also called for action on rural crime. The Sinn Féin spokesperson on Community and Rural Development said “recently, almost 300 people attended a public meeting in West Offaly to discuss a significant increase in break ins in the local area. We also had a vicious attack on a local farmer last weekend, who was hospitalised after four assailants broke into his home,” she remarked. 

“Rural crime is a massive issue and rural communities are living in fear,” she stated. 

“There has been a growing concern that the closure of local Garda stations has reduced garda visibility and made rural communities vulnerable to crime,” said Deputy Nolan. 

Meanwhile, she claimed, “there are Garda cars that remained parked outside Garda stations in Offaly because there isn't Gardai to drive them to patrol communities, this is of serious concern.” 

She maintained the closures have resulted in people feeling vulnerable, particularly in isolated areas. In addition, she said, "farmers have increasingly found themselves dealing with the theft of valuable farm machinery and livestock.” 

Deputy Nolan expressed her belief that the government has no desire to re-open closed garda stations and was instead stalling on the issue.  "This Government must take immediate action to ensure that rural communities have the resources they need to feel safe,” she added.  

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