COUNCILLOR Michael Hourigan has described as “over the top” criticisms of how Limerick is policed by whistle-blowing ex-garda Niall O’Connor.
After four years on the beat in Limerick, Mr O’Connor insisted that most of the officers in Henry Street wanted to leave the force and complained about the cutbacks and heavy workloads he said were damaging morale.
But Cllr Hourigan, who is chairman of Limerick City Council’s policing committee, does not believe most gardai want to quit and are adjusting to cost challenges.
“In every large organisation, you are going to face issues in the current climate and especially in the public sector where everybody is facing cutbacks right across the service,” said Cllr Hourigan.
“In fact Limerick, because of the regeneration, has got commitments in relation to Garda resources and there are more gardai here than there are in cities of similar size like Galway or Waterford.”
“From what I’m told, Limerick is regarded as a very good place to train by young gardai because you encounter every facet of life in the city and you wouldn’t build up the same type of valuable experience if you ended up in a rural area.”
Cllr Hourigan said a recent survey carried out by UL’s Dr Eileen Humphreys showed just how well gardai were regarded by young people growing up in regeneration areas. “I think in fact that the gardai came out second only to the clergy in terms of how well they are regarded,” he said.
Mr O’Connor said that regeneration had not had the desired effect in stabilising communities.
“I don’t think regeneration has had any effect. I think what’s happened is that they’ve just moved the problem somewhere else. They’ve moved bad families out in to good areas and the problems have followed them. There was some sort of sociological theory that by moving bad families into good areas, the good people would rub off on them. But they’ll just continue their feral ways; it’s not going to change them. I think it’s a cop-out on behalf of regeneration to think that was going to help,” said Mr O’Connor.
“Limerick city is a failed society, it’s that simple. People can say I’m lying and I’m being sensationalist, I’m not. I was the guard sitting in that patrol car, going to the calls. I know exactly the way Limerick is,” he added.
But Cllr Hourigan also disputes this view of the city and other comments of Mr O’Connor’s he regards as “over the top”.
“Limerick is improving and crime levels are down. A lot of the serious criminals are in jail thanks to the efforts of the gardai,” he said.