Kenny: Rural gangs use night vision goggles to evade gardaí
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has entered the debate on rural crime, saying travelling gangs are evading gardaí by driving at high speed and wearing night vision goggles.
Gardaí are struggling to keep up with the wave of crime in rural areas, but Mr Kenny said that his Government is responding and is prepared to invest more in specialist vehicles to track the roaming gangs.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Kenny said while crime in isolated areas was nothing new, the "sophistication of the way gangs now do their business is very different".
"We have provided €27m for extra garda cars, another €700,000 for specialist vehicles to deal with these kinds of people. But it is very difficult when they drive at night with night vision goggles at excessive speeds and could do 10 burglaries at any time at any locations that they choose," Mr Kenny said.
The Fine Gael leader said he had been following the "appalling" stories of rural communities who have spoken to the Irish Independent in recent weeks about how they are living in fear.
"I have seen your coverage, and it is both accurate and true, and it reflects what's happening in a number of cases," he said.
"So to respond to that, the Government has reopened Templemore, with 300 going through it and that will continue. I am providing, as I say, 400 new vehicles for Garda, and community alerts are there."
Mr Kenny will travel to the National Ploughing Championships in Laois today, where rural crime is a major topic of discussion among farmers.
He admits that the closure of nearly 140 small garda stations "has always been an issue".
"But the Chief Superintendents in those districts will say that the added hours that gardaí now have for community patrols instead of sitting in old garda stations gives them 61,000 man hours extra.
"So I think the important thing here is community alert, community awareness [and] vigilance," Mr Kenny said.
At the Ploughing Championship yesterday, the IFA's Henry Burns warned that robberies were "starting to destroy the fabric of rural society" and many people feel abandoned.
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan said her officers want to use the country's largest agricultural event to reassure people they are "not on their own".
"We are particularly conscious, particularly in rural areas, that the road network is there so we have invested significantly in improving the fleet that we have. In the coming months, you will see high-powered, high-visibility vehicles out on the road," she said.
Mr Kenny also cited the case of 90-year-old Bray woman Eva Sutton, who was attacked and badly beaten in her home earlier this month.
"We know that in many areas elderly people often live alone. They don't want to leave their houses, and rightly so. You have to have a capacity for the gardaí to have good equipment, proper vehicles and intelligence and information to be able to deal with these people," he said.