DEPUTY Michael Lowry raised a number of concerns in the Dail this Wednesday about the cutbacks to Garda resources and services and its impact on Templemore Town and on rural communities generally.
The Independent North Tipperary TD said that An Garda Síochána had a special place in our society, were the guardians of our peace and kept us safe as individuals and protected our property.
“Gardaí never were and should never be a so-called legitimate target by criminals and thugs masquerading as republicans,” he said.
Gardaí had earned and deserve our total respect and support, he said.
Pointing to changes in Garda working conditions over the past while he said: “Basic Garda pay has traditionally been supplemented by overtime and allowances which have now been greatly reduced or eliminated. Employment terms and conditions must be sufficient to allow gardaí to have a reasonable standard of living that affords them to do the normal things such as marry, raise a family, own a house and live a normal life.”
In relation to his own constituency, he said that Templemore Garda College had “effectively been closed since this Government came to power. We have no new recruits and it is likely to be three years before we see any new Garda graduates. The college looks abandoned and Templemore has become a ghost business town.”
He sad that in every aspect of their working lives, gardaí had seen resources slashed and their working conditions made more challenging.
“They are being shackled in the fight against crime. Garda numbers have declined and continue to be reduced to dangerously low levels. The surge in early retirements of professional, highly trained and skilled members has left a huge deficit in the experience levels within the force,” he said.
Deputy Lowry accused the Government of having failed to equip the Garda with adequate, quality vehicles to fight well-resourced criminals.
“Gardaí cars are not taken out of service until they have clocked a ridiculously high 300,000km. Even then, cars been taken from service are not being replaced. Tipperary alone has lost 14 vehicles since 2010,” said Deputy Lowry.
And he stated that rural stations in Tipperary and across the country had been targeted for closure by this Government, devastating local communities and resulting in huge fear, trepidation and anxiety in the communities affected.
Garda Divisions are being merged, forcing gardaí to cover mammoth areas that will be impossible to adequately police. Due to this policy Templemore Garda district is to be dismantled, he stated.
“These continued erosions of Garda Resources have resulted in disillusionment and poor moral among its members. The reduction in Garda cover has led to unprecedented levels of fear across all sectors of our society. Older people, particularly in rural areas, are living in fear, locked in their homes, terrified at the prospect of being burgled and shocked by the stories of violence against our elderly.
“Families, homeowners and farmers are faced with the reality of having to take significant steps to protect themselves against the increasing prevalence of break-ins, theft of vehicles and of fuel oil. These communities have seen their security ripped away and their viability undermined, said Deputy Lowry.
He said that a reduction in Garda numbers was a ministerial and Government policy initiative to save money.
“It’s not about better policing - it’s about cutbacks. It is a false economy to continue to undermine our Gardaí in this way. The reality is that crime is rising and criminals are increasingly sophisticated. We must protect our protectors and ensure that every possible resource is made available to assist them in this challenging and brave work,” said Deputy Lowry.