JUSTICE Minister Frances Fitzgerald has blamed the burglary epidemic sweeping rural Ireland on the "appalling" economy the Government inherited from Fianna Fail.
Ms Fitzgerald's comments come as she committed to recruiting 500 more gardai next year in an attempt to alleviate growing concerns over the worrying increase in home burglaries.
She said addressing the rural crime crisis was a "high priority" for the Government but insisted the burglary "crime wave" was a result of Fianna Fáil's management of the public finances over more than a decade. "A lot of the concerns in relation to burglary are a direct consequence of the economic situation we inherited, which led to the gardai having their resources cut and resulted in Templemore closing its doors after the recruitment freeze," Ms Fitzgerald told the Herald.
She pledged to spend more on investing in high-powered garda vehicles to hunt roving crime gangs, and more funding for an overhaul of the force's technology.
However, she said there were no plans to open more garda stations despite demands from people living in rural areas.
Yesterday, at a passing-out ceremony for 94 new recruits at the Garda College in Templemore, Ms Fitzgerald said she was "determined to keep burglars off the streets".
"Burglary of a person's home is a heinous and traumatic crime. It can have a devastating impact on our sense of security within our homes," she said.
Garda statistics show 75pc of burglaries are carried out by repeat offenders.
Ms Fitzgerald said new legislation, going through the Dail in the current session, will ensure serial burglars will be dealt with effectively in the district court and face longer sentences.
She said garda strategy combating burglary under Operation Fiacla had so far led to over 14,000 arrests, resulting in almost 8,000 criminal charges being brought between its launch in 2012 and July 31 last.