FIANNA Fáil’s general election candidate in Cork South-West, Cllr Margaret Murphy O’Mahony has said comments made by the Justice Minister on the closure of rural garda stations are proof that Fine Gael simply doesn’t appreciate the problem of crime in rural communities.
Cllr Murphy O’Mahony said she was disappointed to see the Justice Minister completely rule out the reopening of five garda stations in West Cork.
‘The garda stations in Castletownshend and Ballygurteen in the Clonakilty district and Goleen in the Bantry garda district were closed in 2012. The government then closed the Adrigole station in the Bantry district and Ballinspittle garda station in Bandon in 2013. These closures left families more exposed to burglars and took gardaí out of the towns, reducing visibility dramatically,’ she said.
‘It is very worrying to see the Justice Minister seeking to play down the issue of rural crime,’ she added.
‘The trend for burglaries in the Cork West Garda Division is on the increase. Figures from the Central Statistics Office for 2015 show there were 35 recorded burglaries in the first three months of the year, 49 in the second quarter and 66 in the third quarter of the year. Even the criminals believe Fine Gael is soft on crime,’ she claimed.
‘The fact is that since 139 garda stations were closed by Fine Gael, burglaries and other crimes have soared around the country. Dismantling the community Garda infrastructure in this country was a short-sighted and dangerous decision.
‘It saved virtually no money and removed gardaí from communities across the country. The sooner Fine Gael accepts this mistake, the sooner we can have a proper discussion about how to try and fix it.’
However, in response, Bandon-based Chief Supt Tom Hayes said that an examination of burglaries in the Cork West Division over the last five years showed that burglaries have reduced from 328 in 2011 to 183 in 2015, representing a reduction of 44% during that five-year period. ‘There has been a continuous drop each year,’ he told The Southern Star.
‘An examination of more recent trends also shows a reduction. A comparison between the figures for the years 2014 and 2015, reveals that there is a reduction from 233 incidents (2014) to 183 incidents (2015) – a 21% reduction. Burglaries spiked in June, July and August 2015, reaching a pinnacle in July 15 when 31 burglaries occurred. July was the only month to exceed the seasonal average. All other months were below the seasonal average and October, November and December 2015 showed a continuous downward trend,’ he said.
Chief Supt Tom Hayes also said that he wished to acknowledge the assistance from the public in West Cork which has proved very beneficial in a number of recent detections and in the continuous efforts to prevent crime occurring. He also wished to reassure the public that An Garda Siochána was responding effectively to burglaries in the West Cork Division, through the application of Operation Thor and other local initiatives.
‘However, any incident of burglary is one too many,’ he said, adding that An Garda Síochána is committed to working with all interested parties to ensure that the Cork West Division remains a ‘peaceful and safe area to live in’.
He added that he was available to meet with any group or community who have concerns in relation to burglaries or other crimes in their area.