JFK’S famous quote, Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country, sums up the theme of a Bruff Gardai and Limerick IFA organised talk in Cappamore.
A crowd of up to 300 attended the meeting on rural isolation, wellness and crime prevention on a miserable Wednesday night. Cappamore’s own gardai - Sergeant Adrian Condon and Garda Bill Collins - put together an excellent line-up of speakers. They included Bruff Superintendent John Ryan; IFA crime prevention officer Barry Carey; Brian Rohan, of Embrace FARM; Cappamore’s own Mossie Gleeson of Limerick Suicide Watch and Julie McKenna of Novas.
Supt Ryan, newly arrived to the district, started proceedings. He said he has mainly worked in Ennis and Galway city so very urban areas.
“Suddenly I find myself in Bruff which is an area the size of County Louth and I have 30 to 35 uniformed members to cover that area. So as you will all appreciate it is a massive task for me, Adrian and all the rest of the lads to try and manage an area of that size,” said Supt Ryan, who hails from a farming background in Holycross in County Tipperary.
“We need you,” he stressed to the audience.
“We need the community to work with us, we need to get the know the community, we need the community behind us, we need the community talking to us, we need to know what is happening in the community, we need to know the problems in the community,” continued Supt Ryan. Don’t ever think you are overburdening gardai by reporting crime, he said.
“Everything we do is based on statistics and for me to get extra resources I need to have crime being reported. I need to justify everything that we do. It works to build up our statistics and to build up a picture in relation to crime,” said Supt Ryan, who urges people to ring 999 or 112 from their mobile when they are reporting incidents.
When he came to Bruff a couple of months ago the new superintendent did some investigating in his new workplace.
“We have a shed in Bruff that is full of property. We can’t identify them. We don’t know who owns them. Most farmers have an inventory of all their animals in a spreadsheet but how many have an inventory of their property?” he asked. Only one in the crowd put their hand up.
“We don’t do it. We are all guilty of it. Create an inventory, take a photograph of it, record serial numbers and the make of it, when you bought it, mark it or engrave it. At least then if we recover property we can return it to its owner. Eighty per cent of the time we find it really difficult to return it.”
Supt Ryan concluded by saying he wanted to, “Empower communities”.
“There is no point giving out unless you do something about it yourself. It is very easy to be a hurler on the ditch.”
Sgt Condon continued that theme by saying how crucial members of the public were in solving the hay barn fires in the locality a number of years ago.
Barry Carey, of the IFA, said this is just how they tackled crime and farm invasions - by working with the public and gardai - in north Dublin in recent times. He also urged those in attendance to mark their property.
“Criminals want it clean. Property that is marked is a huge deterrent. There is greater chance of having it returned and of a person being prosecuted,” said Mr Carey.
Brian Rohan, of Embrace FARM, explained how he and Limerick-born wife Norma set up the charity as a support network for farm families who, like them, have lost a loved one or suffered serious injury in a farming accident. On the crime side he told how 200 locals in their village of Shanahoe in Laois joined together to install cameras.
“It was €185 per house and we needed the Garda Commissioner to sign off on them due to GDPR. At the Community Alert meetings now we ask the chairman, “Is there any crime?’ and he says no,” said Mr Rohan.
Mr Mossie Gleeson said between Limerick Suicide Watch and Limerick Treaty Suicide Prevention they patrol the bridges in the city seven nights a week.
“You are talking about marking property but life is way more precious,” said the representative of Limerick Suicide Watch.
Mr Gleeson said if you have a hunch that somebody is down and considering suicide then talk to them.
“You have to ask straight up, ‘Are you thinking of suicide?’ It is a fair hard question to put to anyone but that is the question that could make the difference. If your hunch is right they will admit it to you. If you are wrong, so what, they will respect you for thinking that much of them for asking how they were. Don’t be afraid to be wrong,” said Mr Gleeson.
Novas might be best known as a homeless charity but Ms McKenna explained how they also work with those impacted by addiction and mental health issues.
“One thing I am absolutely sure of is mental health or addiction does not discriminate whose door it lands on. None of us know from one day to the next what crisis is going to hit; what will batter our resilience; what day our coping mechanism changes; we become overwhelmed by something and we turn to addiction or suicide ideation to try and cope with that,” said Ms McKenna.
An hour of questions from the floor for Supt Ryan followed. They included contributions from Senator Kieran O’Donnell, Deputy Niall Collins and Cllr Brigid Teefy. One of the loudest rounds of applause was for a man who said the punishments in the courts “don’t meet the crime”.