LIMERICK gardai have one arm tied behind their backs in carrying out their day-to-day duties due to cutbacks, says Justice spokesperson Niall Collins.
The Fianna Fail TD tabled a Dail question to Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald on “the overall number of members of An Garda Síochána in the State; the number of gardaí broken down in tabular form per district; and if she will make a statement on the matter”.
Minister Fitzgerald replied: “The Garda Commissioner is responsible for the distribution of personnel among the garda regions, divisions and districts. Garda management keep this distribution under continuing review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the best possible use is made of these resources.”
The figures pertaining to Limerick show that in 2009 there were 632 members of the force compared to 577 on April 30, 2014 – the latest available figures. This represents a drop of 8.7 per cent. This compares with neighbouring counties of Cork and Tipperary at minus 5.8 per cent and 5.1 per cent. Clare and Kerry are higher at minus 14,2 per cent and 12.4 per cent.
“I asked the question to prove the point that there has been a depletion in the main resources available to An Garda Síochána which is manpower. The evidence which is presenting in my clinics every week from Doon right across to Glin is that people are fearful in their homes because of the diminished garda presence in their communities across County Limerick, and of the closure of garda stations,” said Mr Collins. Statistics show that stations closed in the county represent a fall of 25.6 per cent.
“That is one of the highest in the State. Limerick has had a disproportionate number of closures,” said Mr Collins.
Numbers of gardai in Henry Street, Roxboro Road, Newcastle West and Bruff stand at 323, 132, 78 and 46 respectively.
In terms of geographical area Mr Collins says the Bruff garda district is one of the biggest in the country and is bigger than Co Louth. “Yet they have 46 men and women to cover that whole area. It is basically tying one arm behind the back of gardai and asking them to the do their jobs. It is a long drive from Bruff to Doon or Kilbehenny,” said Mr Collins, who has become aware of people not bothering to report minor crimes.
“Some have said to me they have often not reported incidences of crime because of the poor response times which is no fault of the gardai because they are completely overwhelmed. They are doing trojan work in the circumstances,” said Mr Collins. A lot of work has also been done in parishes to set up Community Alert Text groups to help ease locals minds.
“They are doing great work on the ground in conjunction with gardai yet there are still those, particularly the elderly living on their own, who cannot sleep at night,” said Mr Collins. “In our pre-Budget submission we sought an additional 500 gardai as soon as possible but unfortunately only a 100 recruits have been taken into Templemore which is only a drop in the ocean.”