Limerick politicians hit back at comments made by former garda

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

LIMERICK isn’t a “failed society” but has been failed by the State, according to local politicians who have hit back at comments made by a former garda.

LIMERICK isn’t a “failed society” but has been failed by the State, according to local politicians who have hit back at comments made by a former garda.

Former mayor of Limerick and city councillor John Gilligan was responding to remarks made by former Garda Niall O’Connor, who said that problems with criminality and anti-social behaviour have not decreased since the Regeneration programme took effect, and who referred to Limerick as a “failed society”.

But Cllr Gilligan pointed to Limerick’s unemployment rate of 28.6 per cent, twice the national average, as part of the problem and the number of young people who are unemployed and forced to emigrate. He says the loss of 11,000 jobs from Dell impacted hugely on Limerick and the only way to tackle social problems is to put necessary resources into tackling crime.

“I think society to a large extent has failed Limerick city. The fall off of Dell impacted hugely. I said so at the time. One of the things that Niall O’Connor brought up, and I fully agree with him, is that you can’t have policing on the cheap. If we start cutting back on gardai the amount of crime will go through the roof,” said the Independent councillor.

Fianna Fail deputy Niall Collins, the party’s spokesperson on justice, also took issue with Limerick being referred to as a failed society.

However, deputy Collins said he shared the former garda’s concerns regarding the under-resourcing of An Garda Siochana, and said there’s plenty of evidence of it in Limerick. “We’ve had a garda car in Newcastle West written off and we’re told it won’t be replaced. We have a ban on recruitment and training, ongoing retirements, and the running down of the force in terms of strength and resources. There is no substitute for uniformed members on the beat, on patrol within our communities.”

Deputy Collins said “I think it’s a society that has been failed in certain sections of the community. That’s why Regeneration is happening. I wouldn’t agree with the statement.”

Writing in a tabloid newspaper at the weekend, Mr O’Connor who has now returned to journalism, said he was “overwhelmed” with support from serving gardai, their families and members of the public, despite his initial fears that his views would provoke a backlash.

He said the publication of his story about why he left the force, due to lack of resources and cutbacks, has been a “relief to thousands of gardai who are living a nightmare of strangled budgets and evaporating support.”