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Sunday 18 August 2019

Border gardaí blame cuts as meeting hears people 'in constant fear' of crime

Members of the public attending the Save Our Community meeting
Members of the public attending the Save Our Community meeting
Ronnie Owens, chairman of North East Save Our Community (SOC); journalist Paul Williams; Malachy Sullivan, secretary of North East SOC; Robert O’Shea, chairman of SOC in Tipperary; and John Tully, vice-chairman of SOC, at the meeting in the Knightsbrook Hotel in Trim
Gerard Weldon
Sarah Barron

Sam Griffin

Members of the gardaí, including a senior garda sergeant, have said that cuts to the force have led to the scourge of rural crime devastating communities across the country.

A senior garda sergeant said morale among officers was at an all-time low and said senior officers needed to speak up to protect families.

The gardaí made the remarks about the state of the force at the latest public meeting organised by the 'Save Our Communities' campaign, which was attended by some 600 people in the Knightsbrook Hotel in Trim, Co Meath, last night.

The meeting, which followed on from last month's gathering in Tipperary, once again heard from victims of rural crime who told of the "constant fear" they now live in as a result of attacks in their homes and theft of their property.

Garda James Morrisroe, from the Cavan/Monaghan division, said his region had lost 100 gardaí in recent years.

"How in the name of God can you effectively police a rural division or Border division which has unique policing needs, with a 22pc reduction in (garda presence)?" he asked.

He said the current situation was "totally unsustainable" and compared the job of the local gardaí to that of the Monaghan senior Gaelic football team "trying to beat Dublin with only 12 players".

Antoinette Cunningham, vice president of the Association of Garda Sergeants, said the level of frustration in the force is at unprecedented levels. "We simply sometimes do not have the resources that we want to allocate to certain calls. I know there has been a lot of publicity lately about one-person patrols, one garda going out to answer a call. One garda goes out to answer a call on a frequent basis because sometimes there is just nobody else to go out with him or her," she said.

Victims of rural crime once again shared their stories at the meeting. Some called for the army to be deployed to crack down on criminal gangs "operating completely unhindered" in parts of the country.

Such calls were supported by Gerard Weldon (62) from just outside Cullen, who said the threat of burglary "constantly plays on your mind" when you have been a victim in your own home.

"In my case, they caused an awful lot of damage in the house and completely destroyed a new door I had just put in," he told the Irish Independent.

"It's a violation of people's space and person. I was frustrated that the gardaí told me they knew exactly who the culprits were but it took another two burglaries to be carried out before they got them."

Another victim of rural crime, Sarah Barron from Cullen, near Slane, said both she and her brother have been burgled in recent months and said many people are "living in fear".

The discussion was organised by the North East Save Our Community group for people in Meath, Louth, Cavan and Monaghan. The group says these counties are among the areas worst hit by rural crime in the country, and have also seen two gardaí killed in the line of duty. The meeting was chaired by Irish Independent Special Correspondent Paul Williams.

The meeting discussed a number of measures including reform of bail laws, the introduction of electronic tagging of repeat offenders and better garda resourcing, which they say will effectively tackle the criminal gangs.

Irish Independent

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