Rural crime up by 20pc since 2007 as campaigners to turn it into major issue for #GE16
Campaigners' election call to arms
Country rights campaigners have vowed to make rural crime the major issue for the General Election.
They insist Garda station closures and reduced garda numbers are directly responsible for soaring burglary rates.
An alliance of rural groups, including Rural Link, the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA), Muintir na Tire and Rural Garda Station Support have demanded firm commitments on greater crime-fighting resources.
Dublin's burglary rate is now rising faster than that in rural areas.
However, rural Ireland has witnessed a 20pc spike in burglaries since 2007.
One in every 222 people in Ireland has now been the victim of a home break-in.
Cork, blighted by soaring rural burglary rates over the past five years, now has 115 fewer gardai across its three divisions, including Cork City (-7pc), Cork West (-15pc) and Cork North (-6pc).
Cork, Kerry and Limerick also lost a total of 22 Garda stations in the closures ordered in 2012/13.
Ironically, west Cork recorded the lowest increase in burglary rates of all three divisions. Rural campaigners point out that, unlike the north and east of the county, west Cork has not witnessed major motorway developments.
"The motorways have become the crime highways for these gangs from Cork, Limerick and Dublin right into the heart of rural Ireland," Deputy Barry Cowen said.
The Government has sanctioned a new fleet of high-powered patrol cars for gardai to combat such hit-and-run raiders but campaigners say it is "too little,too late".
"We warned three years ago that the Garda station closures wouldn't deliver the results they claimed," Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae explained.
It emerged last month that the closure of 139 Garda stations nationwide has saved the State just €556,000 per annum.
The greatest concern for groups like Rural Link, the IFA and Muintir na Tire is that the Garda stations represent yet another lost resource for vulnerable country areas.
North Cork campaigner John Arnold warned that rural dwellers believe they are under siege because of Garda station closures, rural post offices being axed and mounting pressure on country schools.
He said the irony is the Government has no difficulty in finding €27 million for a postcode system that no-one wants or needs but couldn't find €500,000 to keep vital rural Garda stations open.
"We will make crime the major election issue," he said.