FIANNA Fail’s Niall Collins TD has accused Fine Gael of being “strong on rhetoric but soft on rural crime”. But in response, Fine Gael’s Patrick O’Donovan TD has accused Fianna Fail of “hypocritical scaremongering”.
The political mud-slinging comes after the government rejected a number of Fianna Fail amendments to the Burglary Bill. One of these amendments called for a mandatory three-year jail sentence for anyone convicted of burglary and for a minimum of seven years for a third burglary conviction.
Deputy Collins, who is Fianna Fail’s Justice spokesman, said he had moved the amendments in good faith and in a bid to strengthen the government’s proposed bill.
“Unfortunately, true to form, the Government decided it knows best and ploughed on regardless,” he said. “Many communities are blighted by crime at the moment. Having been left more isolated and more vulnerable by Fine Gael and Labour cuts to garda resources, communities need to know that the law is on their side. We believe a tough stance is needed on repeat offenders. Too many people have been left terrorised in their own homes. The Government has come up short in our view on this legislation.
“Fianna Fáil wants a firm crackdown on the surge in burglaries in both urban and rural areas,” he said, adding: “We are firmly of the view that criminals convicted of burglary are regularly walking free after receiving suspended sentences and this is not acceptable.”
In a hard-hitting statement, Deputy O’Donovan declared that Fianna Fáil’s “hypocritical scaremongering will not help Limerick families concerned about burglaries”.
“The hypocrisy of Fianna Fáil on the matter of rural crime is something to behold. They remain brazen in their attempts to score political points on this issue, capitalising on people’s fear, when it was their policies that led us to this point in the first place.”
The proactive measures taken by the government will make a difference in the fight against crime, Deputy O’Donovan argued.
“There are 61,000 more garda hours available for frontline patrol following reforms to the delivery of rural policing,” he pointed out and he cited also the €205m investment in new and existing IT systems. “Fianna Fáil was in government for 14 consecutive years and gardaí were still writing their rosters with pen and paper.”
The government had also invested in new vehicles, 54 of these in Limerick alone, Deputy O’Donovan argued and 54. In addition, Limerick was to get a new courthouse and the garda station in Newcastle West was to be extended.
A new strategy, involving gardai, the prison service and probation service had been put in place to target repeat offenders, Deputy O’Donovan pointed out.
“We are also toughening the bail laws so as to prevent those on bail from re-offending. Those who aren’t deterred by these measures will find themselves serving longer jail sentences for their crimes,” he said.