Wednesday 13 November 2019

Full debate needed on future of policing

TWO days after Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe was buried with due dignity, we receive news of more planned garda spending cuts. The revelations come the day after the closure of 95 garda stations across the country took effect and news that more such closures are likely for next year.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has mounted a strong defence of these closures. Yesterday he and cabinet colleagues promised us a new era of hi-tech policing vastly more effective than the old barrack-based model.

How this modern high-technology policing service is to be delivered remains to be seen. It appears unlikely to be achieved through a cut in garda allowances, overtime, weekend and holiday pay.

Delivery of new and enhanced policing appears even less likely when an overall and ongoing cut in garda numbers now appears inevitable.

To some people it may seem a little rich that also yesterday, of all days, Mr Shatter was launching a new booklet on community policing and crime prevention. But all of us have our part to play in the fight against crime and such publications have their place.

Mr Shatter has a difficult job and he must show economies along the lines of those demanded across the public service. Everybody involved in providing national security and policing long ago accepted that more must be done with less.

No one need be reminded of the perilous state of our economy. And all reasonable people understand that we can't, as a nation, continue to spend far in excess of what we earn. But we do have choices, limited though they may be.

After all, few sections of the public service risk life and limb in their daily work. Few public servants' work is so central to the mental and physical well-being of the community.

The simple reality is that many people in isolated rural places and difficult urban areas fear their locality is not adequately policed. And, in this regard, perception is every bit as powerful as reality.

On this morning last week Det Gda Adrian Donohoe was alive and well. One week after those events at Lordship, Co Louth, it is time to have a full debate about policing in Ireland.

Irish Independent

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