Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald: 'Burglaries down 34pc but it's still too many'
JUSTICE Minister Frances Fitzgerald has said that burglaries are down 34pc since the Gardaí launched Operation Thor at the end of last year.
Addressing the Fine Gael Ard Fheis, she told delegates that she has been briefed on a provisional oeprational analysis by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan.
She said she was told that since Operation Thor began last October the number of burglaries nationwide dropped to 4,449 cases from 6,776 over the same period in in 2014/2015.
"It's still too many but these provisional figures show a reduction of 34pc in that period.
"It's important to recognise that when the Gardai focus on this area... we are getting the results and it's because we've given them the resources and will continue to do so, so that we can confirm that downward trend and deepen that downward trend."
Ms Fitzgerald came under fire earlier this week for saying on radio that burglaries have dropped since 2014 without providing figures to back up the claim.
Now Ms Fitzgerald has revealed the provisional analysis on how Operation Thor is going.
The anti-burglary initiative has seen more than 8,000 additional patrols by Gardai and around 11,700 checkpoints.
There have been 496 arrests since November, mainly relating to burglary, Ms Fitzgerald said.
Ms Fitzgerald was speaking at an Ard Fheis session entitled 'More Gardaí, Tougher Sentences'.
Speaking of investment in the force under the Fine Gael/Labour coalition she said the government has reversed the moratorium on Garda recruitment.
"We re-opened the Garda College in Templemore to new recruits. And here's a commitment - we won't let it close again."
She pledged to recruit new Gardaí at a rate of at least 600 a year until their numbers are back to 14,000 "and beyond".
She said that 1,300 new garda vehicles have been bought since 2012 and that the percentage of vehicles less than two years old is now 35pc, up from 7pc in 2011.
Ms Fitzgerald said that Fine Gael "will make it a priority to tackle repeat re-offending" bringing in tougher sentences for repeat burglars including consecutive sentences for previous offenders being prosecuted on multiple counts.
According to Ms Fitzgerald the new Burglary Act will make it easier for courts to refuse bail for repeat burglars.
She said she was against what she called "Sinn Fein's campaign to abolish the Special Criminal Court"
Sinn Fein expressed opposition to the court after the conviction of republican Thomas 'Slab' Murphy for tax fraud at the end of 2015.
Party leader Gerry Adams said Murphy had been "treated unfairly" by the justice system and has a right to be tried in front of a jury.
"I oppose absolutely Sinn Fein's campaign to abolish the Special Criminal Court," Ms Fitzgerald said.
"In fact I have established a second Special Criminal Court so that we can do away with the delays that that are there at present.
"This court is vital to ensuring the effective management of fair trials of alleged terrorists and dissidents."