Speech – Private Members’ Business

PaulConnaughton-2-150x150

Dáil Éireann 28th January 2013

 

Firstly, I wish to join with members on all sides of the house in expressing my sympathy to the family of the late Garda Adrian Donoghue as well as his colleagues in the Gardaí and I know that members of the force are determined to bring those responsible for this heinous crime to justice.

 

This Government recognises the central role that the Gardaí play in ensuring the security of the state and the need for a properly resourced police force. As a representative of East Galway, I am only too aware that a number of Garda Stations in the region are to close.

 

However, while I understand the fears that many local communities have, I believe that it is the interaction with local people, as opposed to the location in which that interaction takes place, that is crucial and to that end, I believe that the size and mobility of the force must be maintained at all costs.

 

In recent days, I have been contacted by members of the Community Alert group in Kilconly, East Galway, who made a very valid suggestion. Kilconly Garda Station is among the stations in east Galway that is due to close and they suggested that the married quarters attached to the station be advertised within the Gardaí and the member who would reside there would work in Tuam and would give an undertaking to reside there for three to five years or until they moved jobs. A nominal rent would be paid to the OPW.

 

The benefit for the community is that they would have a Garda residing in the local community and such arrangements could be worked out throughout the country, to the benefit of both the Garda who would reside there and the local community.

 

I believe that most rural communities want to retain the link with members of the force, even if they work in a Divisional station outside the immediate area. It would also have the benefit in that a significant number of Gardaí would still be living in rural areas and interacting with the people in those areas through local clubs and schools etc.

 

One danger in closing rural stations is that increasingly, Gardaí and their families will live in the larger towns where divisional stations are located and large swathes of the countryside will be home to no Gardaí. I believe that the suggestion of the Kilconly/Kilbannon Community Alert group deserves serious consideration in coming weeks.

 

The Gardaí must be properly resourced in terms of equipment, technology and what is particularly important in a rural context, mobility and transport. Having spoken about this topic to numerous concerned rural residents, I believe that greater investment is needed in the Garda transport fleet if the force is to be able to respond properly to current crime levels in rural areas.

 

Community Alert is a particularly important scheme in a rural context. It is never a replacement for local Gardaí, but rather is an important complement to the work of Gardaí in rural areas. However, many areas, including many local areas in County Galway, remain without a Community Alert scheme, or else the local scheme has been allowed to lapse.

 

Some new schemes have been initiated in recent times, but usually only in response to a particular spate of burglaries. I believe that a more concerted effort is needed to ensure that all rural areas are catered for in terms of Community Alert.

 

The goodwill and local knowledge of groups such as the GAA and IFA can be put to good effect in terms of bringing people together to heighten awareness in an area and to ensure that local people are cognisant of the need to maintain good security measures in their homes and are vigilant in terms of suspicious activity in their locality.

 

The funds spent to date on Community Alert have been particularly fruitful and I believe that it could, with further investment, be an important asset for members of the Gardaí in fighting rural crime in coming years.

 

In terms of Garda recruitment, I understand that there are many members of the Garda Reserve that would love the opportunity to join the force and I believe that these people, who have shown such dedication to policing, should be given an opportunity to join the force when the next recruitment campaign gets underway.

 

The murder of Garda Adrian Donoghue in cold blood in recent days has made people all across this island more cognisant of the fact that Gardaí are at the front line when it comes to fighting serious crime in every corner of the island.

 

Nobody wants to see this country descend into the utter chaos and anarchy which would result if these criminal thugs are to have their way and to this end, it is crucial that a properly maintained Garda Síochána continues to guard the peace across this state.