LAST weekend’s reckless and brutal gangland murder during the weigh-in at the Regency Hotel in Dublin for a boxing tournament in front of hundreds of people, many of them children who have been traumatised by the incident, once again focussed the spotlight on Garda resources. The main emphasis was on those available to combat gangland crime, but it also begged the question as to how safe our rural communities are now, given the closure of more than a hundred small Garda stations throughout the country during the lifetime of this government.
The government will argue that these closures are at the behest of the Garda Commissioner for operational reasons, but there is no doubt that the Commissioner’s hand was also forced somewhat by financial constraints during the economic downturn when Garda recruitment was completely stopped for a few years.
While €5m was readily pumped in to fighting gangland crime in Dublin this week, the irony of the closure of these small rural Garda stations was that very little money was saved by doing so – not much over €500,000 per annum – but the fears for communities’ safety by losing the crutch of a locally-based policeman with good knowledge of the area served and its people has come at a much higher psychological price with the loss of many people’s sense of security, particularly elderly people in isolated areas.
In Dublin, there a lot more Gardaí in the vicinity to respond quickly to crimes, but in rural areas, it takes a lot longer and perpetrators have a better chance of a clean getaway. Rural policing needs to be an election issue.