THE number of gardaí in the West Cork division fell from 318 to 270 between 2010 and 2015, which is down 48, Fianna Fáil Deputy Margaret Murphy O’Mahony told the Minister for Justice & Equality Frances Fitzgerald.
Speaking during Question Time, Deputy Murphy O’Mahony said many stations were also closed, including Ballinspittle, Adrigole, Ballydehob, Goleen, Ballingurteen and Castletownshend. ‘The Minister must realise that many towns and villages throughout West Cork do not have 24-hour cover and are therefore on the back foot from the very start,’ she said.
‘Gardaí in these areas are reacting to incidents rather than ensuring preventative measures are in place. This, I must stress, is through no fault of their own.
‘When many of the rural stations were closed, resources should have been afforded to the larger stations to counteract the closures around West Cork. I ask the Minister to comment on that.’
In some instances, she said, towns with a station that is regarded as functioning is in fact managed from a central station in a larger town, which is not acceptable. A stronger presence was needed on the ground in West Cork.
‘Drug availability is on the increase in West Cork as it is in other areas,’ she said. ‘Many people were previously insulated from drugs but this is no longer the case. Extra resources are needed to curb this problem. ‘Obviously, the availability of drugs is married to the increase in anti-social behaviour and crime rates, she added.
In reply, Minister Fitzgerald said the years during which Templemore was closed as a result of the economic situation had a very serious impact right around the country.
‘Decisions were taken on the best way to provide policing in this country and stations were closed,’ she said. ‘However, the key point is that it was the Deputy’s party which presided over the economic recession that led to the decision to close Templemore. That is the reality of the situation.
‘Fianna Fáil closed Templemore and I opened it. The Government is investing. The Deputy’s party stopped investing. ‘Having made that point, I want to assure the Deputy that the best way forward to ensure that communities like her one receive community policing is by continued investment in An Garda Síochána and by proper allocation based on the need in a given area.’
CICs and MABS
The proposal to abolish the 93 Citizens’ Information Centres (CICs) and MABS boards and replace them with 16 regional boards would be detrimental to the local services, not alone in rural Ireland but also in large urban areas, Cork South West Independent Deputy Michael Collins told the Dáil.
Speaking during a debate on the plan, he said CICs started with local groups of volunteers establishing an information service in the 1970s. They and MABS are distinctly local services, delivered locally.
‘The West Cork CIS is an example of one of the 42 CIS entities,’ he said. ‘It provides a top class information, advice and advocacy service to the people of West Cork. In addition, staff deliver information talks all over West Cork throughout the year in response to requests from community and voluntary groups.
‘For West Cork CIS and most CIS entities this proposed restructuring will result in their having much less autonomy and remove community ownership and active citizenship.’
Deputy Collins said he was sure the Minister, Leo Varadkar, was aware of the saying, ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’ There could be no more appropriate saying in this instance.
‘MABS and the CIS must be maintained in our communities and constituencies,’ he said. ‘They must not become another victim of regionalisation at an additional cost to the taxpayer.’