TDs demand new rural crime task-force and stronger trespass laws
A dedicated rural crime task-force and a review of trespass laws to strengthen the rights for farmers to protect their property were among a series of demands set out by Independent TDs last night.
They also called for bail laws to be examined in relation to the provision of free legal aid to repeat offenders and possible abuses of the scheme.
Mattie McGrath, Michael and Danny Healy-Rae and Michael Collins were among a number of TDs who tabled a private members' motion on rural crime. Speaking ahead of the debate, Mr McGrath said crime was a "massive contentious issue" and said people were "terrified" amid claims that there was a lack of Garda visibility and numbers.
Michael Healy-Rae said it was "time to get tough on crime" and to let "thugs" that prey on the community know that "we're not going to put up with their bullying".
Mr Healy-Rae said he would like to see a crackdown similar to the one in the 1990s that targeted organised crime after the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin.
Mr McGrath claimed the current trespass laws needed to be strengthened, adding: "Nobody has a right to trespass on anyone's house. Your home is your castle."
He raised concern that "people will arm themselves to defend themselves".
Last night, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan tabled a Government counter-motion.
He told the Dáil he was familiar with the concerns of people living in rural Ireland and knew the impact that crime, and the fear of it, could have on people. But he also said crime rates were lower in rural communities than in urban areas.
He said the Government had a commitment to a strong and visible Garda presence and pointed out there had been an acceleration of recruitment that had seen numbers reach 14,000 by the end of 2018.
Mr Flanagan said trespass laws remained under constant review, but he had been advised they were "sufficiently robust". He added that the bail laws had been "significantly strengthened" by the Government. Mr Flanagan said the Government was committed to supporting and protecting communities across this country.