By John Newman
THANKS to the initiative of its officers, chairman Benny Cottrell; secretary Hazel Shields; treasurer Phil O’Sullivan and local IT expert Aidan McCarthy, PRO, Innishannon-Knockavilla Community Alert, incorporating Castlelack and Gurranes, moved into the age of information technology recently when it launched its own website, innishannon-knockavilla-community-alert.ie at Scoil Eoin, Innishannon.
Founded 25 years ago, October 1990, the first meeting of the group was convened by Sgt Pat O’Leary and Garda Donal McCarthy in Innishannon Parish Hall. 40 people were in attendance that first night, and following a lively discussion a committee was formed and the officers elected were: Billy O’Sullivan, Kilpatrick, chairman; Marian Cooper, Kilmacsimon, secretary; Phil O’Sullivan, Coolmoreen, treasurer; Hazel Shields, Crosses, PRO; with Garda Donal McCarthy as the liaison garda.
Community Alert is a national organisation affiliated to Muintir na Tire, whose representative Diarmuid Cronin, a long-time friend was in attendance at the recent historic meeting, along with Sgt Ian O’Callaghan, crime prevention officer, West Cork; Supt Liam Horgan, Bandon; and local garda Tadg Sammon.
It’s mission statement as set out many years ago is still relevant today: crime prevention; neighbourliness and self reliance; general community safety and wellbeing; accident prevention; promotion of personal safety; anti-poverty focus and awareness of social inclusion.
Chairman Benny Cottrell extended a warm welcome to all, and he had a special céad mile fáilte for the many parishioners who have served as officers over the years.
Following on as chairman from Billy O’Sullivan were Billy Burke and Paddy O’Sullivan. The vice-chairman for many years was Castlelack’s Jim O’Mahony whose son Pat has now taken on that role.
Secretaries that have served include Marion Cooper, Anna Hickey, William Manning and Hazel Shields whose name is synonymous with Community Alert. Phil O’Sullivan has held the position of treasurer from the beginning and PROs who have served include Hazel Shields, Billy O’Sullivan and John Newman.
The liason gardai have been Donal McCarthy, Tom Mulcahy, David Noonan and currently Tadg Sammon.
The chairman then went on to outline the progress of Community Alert in the Parish over the years and since its inception the population has grown from total rural to a partly urban area especially in the vicinity of Innishannon village, and thanks to Community Alert and its links with Garda Siochána, ‘we have a very peaceful and relatively crime-free parish.’
‘In 1997 in conjunction with the Department of Social Welfare (at the time), a grant scheme was set up to aid the installation of socially monitored alarms in the homes of our more senior citizens.’ He went on to acknowledge the social aspect of Innishannon-Knockavilla Friendship Club, for our senior citizens in the community, while another very important item was the foundation of Defibrillator Group in the parish, which now boasts 150 trained personnel, since 2007, all of which is one great source of security for those people in the twilight of years.’
Cork West Crime Prevention Officer Sergeant Ian O’Callaghan also addressed the launch. ‘I would like to congratulate the hardworking committee of Innishannon-Knockavilla Community Alert on the launch of this wonderful new initiative. The administrator of the new website will work closely with me in supplying up to date information in the region as well as passing on important preventative advice.’
This website will compliment the Crime Text Alert Service that is operating very successfully in the area and will be another tool in reducing and preventing crime in the locality. Modern technology is to be embraced and An Garda Siochána will work with communities throughout West Cork in developing and making these types of initiatives a success. Indeed I shall be encouraging other Community Alert groups throughout West Cork to follow the example of Innishannon-Knockavilla Community Alert.
Information shall be supplied to the website on issues such as burglaries, thefts, frauds and links to Crime Prevention Information leaflets on a wide array of topics. Provisional figures indicate that property crime is down on last year and there is no doubt that the excellent relations and communications that exist between gardaí and Community Alert is contributing to this positive trend.’
PRO Aidan McCarthy then described the various links on the website (which also works on mobiles and iPads) before Supt Liam Horgan officially performed the launch saying that ‘I am both delighted and intrigued to be here on this special occasion, but as a young garda in Bandon I played soccer with Castlelack.’ He again asked for continued partnership with the gardaí ‘as it is vital for the community. I congratulate you on your 25th birthday and also your IT expert Aidan. I know headquarters and the Commissioner Noreen O’Sullivan will be very impressed.’
The chairman then brought the launch to a close with the following recall that ‘In 2014 a text alert system was set up in conjunction with the gardaí and Muintir na Tire in which paid up members receive regular text messages regarding significant incidents from local gardaí and our hope is that our Community Alert will continue to help and support all parishioners and that this community will remain the warm welcoming and vibrant community that it is today.’