By Eoin Kelleher
HAS An Garda Síochána in Tipperary become too remote from the communities it serves? Mayor of Cashel Maribel Wood raised concerns at last week’s meeting of Cashel’s Joint Policing Committee (JPC), that the force is no longer recognisable by the local people of Cashel, as many gardai no longer live in town, but miles away in other towns.
Following four or five break-ins in Cashel recently, many people in Cashel feel they no longer know the local gardai, said Cllr Wood. “They cannot identify the gardai’s faces, names, who they are.”
A woman had come to Cllr Wood trying to get answers from her about the break-ins, but there was little information available, said Cllr Wood. “There’s a lack of communication between the guards in town, and the people.” Some elderly people feel they have nobody to contact, especially on weekends; some are even going to bed early to avoid going out walking in the countryside during the long evenings, added Cllr Wood.
Cllr Wood called attention to a particular incident which occurred in the Main Street of Cashel recently, where a vehicle was used to ram a jewellery shop front. Supt Tom Duggan said that investigation is ongoing and a man was arrested in relation to the incident. Supt Duggan said there is an obligation on investigating gardai to contact the victim of crime. “That is our policy. Victims are supposed to be informed of any progress.”
At recruitment freeze in An Garda Siochana means that if someone leaves the force, they are not replaced. In Cashel, there are presently three Sergeants, and 12 gardai, with one of those stationed indoors, said Supt Duggan. Cllr Wood said she had heard that some gardai had to be called from as far away as Clogheen or Cahir on the weekends. “The station is open every day, Saturdays and Sundays, from 9am to 5pm, 7 days a week,” responded Supt Duggan.
Cllr PJ Quinlan said he acknowleded the particularly heavy presence of the gardai in Cashel during recent months, and during the Queen’s visit. Cllr Eoghan Lawrence said he had heard of one person whose house was burgled, only to discover their next-door neighbour was burgled only two weeks previously. That person “rang the gardai and the garda on duty knew nothing about it.” Community Representative Sean Murphy, said the guards on duty were “flying up and down the Main Street” in patrol cars, but “I haven’t seen them walk on the street in years.”
Supt Tom Duggan said the situation whereby gardai no longer live locally “could be a problem” as they “should be visible.”
Cllr Dan Dillon - a former garda - said the day when a garda knew everybody in the area had unfortunately changed. However, he had seen many gardai walking the streets. “It’s crucially important that the gardai remain visible to reassure the public,” said Cllr Dillon, who asked why Cashel Garda Station closed after 5pm. “The station is closed after 5pm for a good reason. Calls are dispatched from Cahir to Cashel,” said Supt Duggan. “There’s no point in having a station open 24-hours as it ties up a garda.” Cllr Wood added that in many cases, there was “no justice” for victims, “and we have to pay the free legal aid.”