I chaired a really interesting and interactive meeting on Crime Prevention in Kilteel Hall on 28th January 2016. Guest speakers Jim Brady and Colin Connolly spoke about their personal experiences with burglary and crime. Jim is an ex-member of Defence Forces and had some great advice on avoiding burglary. Colin is crime prevention officer with the IFA and spoke about his Theft Stop initiative and gave some interesting advice on how to ‘mark’ your property. Rural crime has never been as great a concern as is now, and it is an issue which needs to be addressed and discussed frequently especially with our all time low Garda numbers here in Kildare.
Comments made by Minister for Justice Francis Fitzgerald are unacceptable after she has completely ruled out the reopening of rural Garda stations closed by Fine Gael and Labour over the last five years. The closure of rural Garda stations in Kildare, coupled with cutbacks to Garda resources, has coincided with a spike in rural crime in the county. This is something I’ve highlighted over the past 5 years on numerous occasions.
It’s astonishing to see the Justice Minister completely rule out any reopening of rural Garda stations closed by Fine Gael and Labour over the last five years. These station closures have had a significant negative impact on the operational capability of the Gardai. It has removed Gardai from many communities across Ireland and has made it easier for criminals to target homes and businesses in rural Ireland.
I’ve always been outspoken on the serious issue of crime across Kildare North and how it has affected our communities and have looked at ways to stem that. On a national level as part of our policy proposals for the upcoming General Election, Fianna Fáil is prepared to take immediate and bold action to tackle the growing crime wave hitting rural Ireland. The party will put in place a seven point plan which will seek to address the crime epidemic in rural Ireland and ensure communities can live in security and without fear. As we’re all too well aware, rural Kildare has suffered considerably in this current crime wave.
It was announced recently that 5 new garda recruits were to be allocated to Kildare. The latest figures made available to Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesperson Niall Collins shows there were 300 gardaí attached to Kildare in February this year, down from 324 in April 2011. The loss of 24 gardaí to police our communities cannot be undone with an additional 5 garda recruits.
It is extremely important that Garda recruitment and the training of new officers is continuing but I think the Government needs to ramp up its efforts in this regard. The strength of the garda force nationally is now around 12,500 and there are a further 1,498 officers eligible to retire this year. This would leave the force at a seriously diminished level.