A rise in crimes including burglaries and speeding has led to renewed calls to have the garda station in Askeaton re-opened, with a public meeting set to take place in the town next month to highlight local concerns.
The meeting has been called by Askeaton Community Council in response to growing fears about an increase in crime in the area since the local garda station was downgraded from a district headquarters to a part-time station. It is now only manned for an hour in the afternoon and an hour in the evening on alternate days.
“We had a district office here with a superintendent and a number of gardai. Now Askeaton is effectively closed,” explained Joe Whelan, vice chairman of the community council.
The community council wants garda management to agree to reopen the station on a full time basis, with two sergeants and the requisite number of gardai based there. This, Mr Whelan claimed, was what the community council was given to understand would happen following the downgrade. “We would have had an understanding that we would have had that in Askeaton but that has not been fulfilled,” he said.
The community council is hoping to get a large turnout to the public meeting which has been called for July 9 at 8pm. The chief superintendent, Dave Sheahan, will be in attendance and all local public representatives have also been invited. Mr Whelan said it would be an opportunity for local people to air their views. “At the end of the day, we want to maintain a good relationship with the gardai,” he added.
Local councillor and cathaoirleach of Limerick City and County Council Kevin Sheahan pointed out that the closure of the station was “one of the principle concerns” raised by voters during the recent local election campaign. “Old people feel intimidated and they are afraid to leave their homes for fear that they will be broken into while they are out,” said Cllr Sheahan, adding that there was “plenty of evidence” to support their fears.
His fellow area councillor Emmett O’Brien also welcomed the move by the community council. He pointed out that there were ten gardai assigned to the Askeaton-Foynes-Pallaskenry area but that they were without supervision. “While these Garda are doing immense work with limited resources they need guidance and support in the guise of a sergeant,” Mr O’Brien added.