Fear and loathing of criminals in resilient County Limerick

Donal O’Regan


Donal O’Regan

Mary Cullen shows her empty ring boxes after �10,000 worth of jewellery was stolen from her home last ChristmasPicture: Michael Cowhey
THESE are the strong views and feelings of those who won’t lie down and let the criminals win.

THESE are the strong views and feelings of those who won’t lie down and let the criminals win.

Community text alert sytems have been set up and everyone is looking out for each other.

This feature was prompted by the passionate words of Gold Cup winning trainer Jim Culloty and multiple All-Ireland winner DJ Carey after they were the victims of crime. Many in Limerick feel the same.

The lack of visible gardai patrols in many parts of County Limerick is one of the main concerns being voiced by people living in rural areas. The closure or downgrading of rural garda stations, combined with a shortage of squad cars has led to a perception that many rural communities have been effectively abandoned.

“Rural people living on their own are isolated and afraid to open the door. There is a fear there with rural people living alone and that is down to the lack of gardai,” said local community activist Seamus Sheahan from Croom.

Many gardai are also frustrated at the lack of resources to effectively do the job. One local garda who spoke to the Leader pointed out that there was no squad car assigned full-time to medium sized towns like Croom, Ballingarry or Pallaskenry, while the car assigned to Askeaton garda station is so old that it spends most of its time in the garage.

And with many experienced gardai retiring and not being replaced, the loss of expertise and manpower is leading to a situation where break-ins and other crimes are not being effectively investigated, he claimed.

“We are no longer investigating gardai, all we are doing now is reporting,” the garda said.

Fianna Fail’s justice spokesman, Niall Collins warned that the shortage of garda manpower was leading to a situation where crimes were not being investigated properly.

“I know from dealing with individual members of the garda siochana that they have been completely stretched,” he said.

“The combination of everything – lack of equipment and manpower – is impacting on the ability to process and investigate crime because the resources just aren’t there.”

The past two years have seen the closure of many garda stations in small towns and villages, including Shanagolden, Kilmeedy, Tournafulla, Oola, Doon, Galballly, Kilfinane, Castletown, while others have seen their opening hours cut. Askeaton was downgraded from a district headquarters and is now only manned on a part-time basis and is only open to the public for one hour a day.

But gardai must be “tearing their hair out”, says former Limerick hurler Joe Quaid, when they do catch the perpetrators, bring them to court and they get a “suspendend sentence”.

It is something that Paddy Ryan “Luke” feels strongly about and has often spoken of. The farmer, IFA man and secretary of Cappamore Show for over 50 years feels there is no deterrant.

“Somebody said to me quite recently that the most thriving industry of today is burglary and crime in rural Ireland complements to our Department of Justice.

“If the present system was a deterrent there would be a reduction in rural crime. How often do we hear a person is arrested for a crime and it turns out they are on bail with a litany of crimes against them?

“They have plenty of money for free lega aid for those scumbags and still they can’t provide resources for the gardai. These people are far removed from reality,” said Mr Ryan, who was recently out canvassing during the IFA elections and made a startling discovery.

“Quite a number of people in rural Ireland are going to bed with a loaded gun by their bedside. We put it to them why and invariably the reply we got was, ‘If the State isn’t capable of protecting us as citizens of the State we have no other option but to protect ourselves’.

“I could gather that those people, it wasn’t a token, they were prepared to use it. That is the reality and that says an awful lot for the situation we are in,” said Mr Ryan.

One of the lowest crimes currently happening in the county is travelling criminals calling to the elderly. They pretend to be from a bank, pensions board, HSE, ESB, Eircom or offer to clean gutters, powerwash driveways or lay tarmacadam. Garda John Finnerty says they do their best to intimidate or trick the homeowner into buying something, get some unnecessary jobs done or or enter the house and steal cash and valuable.

“Do not entertain cold callers. If you suspect they are a fraud, then please contact your nearest garda station straight away,” he advises.