Desk-bound gardai can't fight crime, says Shatter
JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter has said that gardai are not preventing rural crime by sitting in their stations for "three hours every morning".
He was defending his decision to close 100 garda stations last week, which has led to angry protests by rural communties.
Swathes of rural Ireland, as well as some urban communities, are furious at the latest round of cutbacks.
But Mr Shatter said the garda station network was based on decisions made in colonial times by the British government – and was unnecessarily keeping gardai behind their desks.
He said that many of the stations were part-time and only had a minimal garda presence.
"A single guard sitting for three hours a day in a garda station doesn't in fact contribute anything of major operational value in terms of crime protection or crime detection," he said.
But in a heated Dail encounter, Fianna Fail justice spokesman Niall Collins accused him of engaging in an exceptionally cowardly act by announcing the station closures on Budget day last week.
"The minister's decision means he has removed the garda presence from communities all over the country. If he thinks that is a positive policing innovation then he is completely out of touch," he said.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has called on the Government to provide details of the savings that can be achieved by the closures.
Mr Shatter said that it was not about saving money but providing a more efficient policing service.
"With a reduction in resources and in garda numbers, we are using the expertise of the force to the maximum benefit of the community," he said.
Mr Shatter said 88pc of the 100 stations being closed had just one garda stationed there.
He said he was providing an additional €5m for new garda vehicles so that gardai would be able to provide effective community policing.
Mr Shatter also rejected a suggestion from Independent Kerry South TD Tom Fleming to get soldiers to go on patrol with the gardai in high-crime areas.
The minister said it would be entirely inappropriate because the Defence Forces performed very distinct functions which were separate from the gardai.