Tuesday, 20 November 2012
Dáil Éireann Debate
[Deputy Thomas Pringle: ] It can take a squad car from the nearest station up to two hours to get to its destination. In one recent incident in Donegal, a patrol car had to travel 45 miles to attend a serious arson incident. Many areas in Donegal have been plagued by burglary and vandalism, where criminals have no fear because they know they will not be caught. Some people living on their own are so afraid that, when they go to bed at night, they leave €50 on the kitchen table in case the house is burgled in the hope the burglar will take it and leave. That is no way to live. The fact that this is going on before any further cuts have been made makes it more worrying. We have already seen the closure of almost 40 Garda stations this year and it is reported that up to 80 more face closure. This is not efficient, it is just dangerous. Can the Taoiseach inform the House of his plan for tackling crime in rural areas and how he equates fewer stations and fewer gardaí with more efficiency? How many more closures will we see by the year's end and for how many more years will we see closures happen before the recruitment embargo is lifted to ensure the safety of all citizens?
The Taoiseach: Deputy Pringle is aware that the nature of contact between the Garda Síochána and the public has changed over the years. The requirement for it has been very clear. There are 664 Garda stations whereas Scotland, with a population of 5.2 million, has 340 police stations. Northern Ireland has 85 stations and will return to 45. The decisions made are of interest in town and country and I have seen it over many years. There is little point in having a Garda sitting in a decrepit building for two hours on Wednesday-----
The Taoiseach: The public demands, in rural Donegal and everywhere else, to know where the Garda Síochána can be contacted when needed and that the public has visibility of the force moving through the communities. A variety of opportunities present themselves in that regard.
The Taoiseach: The question of the closure of Garda stations will follow any recommendation made by the Garda Síochána Commissioner to the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Vote for next year in respect of the Garda Síochána is a matter for the budget. We have absolute support for the work the Garda Síochána does in the country. I compliment the Garda Síochána on having accepted the changes to rosters that allow greater availability and visibility at times when they are required where people or crowds have gathered. It is the same old story. If Deputy Pringle thinks the best method of Garda contact with the public is to have them sitting for two hours on a Wednesday in a building 100 years old-----
Deputy Thomas Pringle: The Garda Review recently described these changes as a victory for criminals. The closure of rural Garda stations means members of the Garda Síochána are not in contact with the local community. They must travel over 50 miles to emergency callouts, which is hardly progress in terms of policing. Since 2008, the number of gardaí has reduced by 1,000 and staffing levels in 108 Garda district have fallen by over 10%. The Garda Síochána cannot access staff or vehicles in many rural areas and cannot access the public because they have no means of getting there. Is that the kind of policing the Taoiseach wants across the country?
The Taoiseach: No, I want to see that the public has confidence in the Garda Síochána, in the officers who conduct business on behalf of the public and that the force has the resources to do the job. That is why over 200 new Garda cars have been purchased by a decision of Government due to the clapped-out nature of some cars with high mileage.
The operation that targeted burglars has resulted in over 2,500 arrests and 1,400 charges. This is significant in the context of the gardaí finding out who the people are and bringing 1,400 charges against them. The important point is that the Garda Síochána has changed the way it does business in terms of rosters. Its visibility, on the streets and across the country, has changed because of the changes to rosters. The capacity to be connected, to be contacted and to contact each other-----
The Taoiseach: -----so they can make contact with their gardaí when they need them. If Deputy Mattie McGrath thinks that sitting in an ivy-covered building, which needs €100,000 to do it up, for two hours on Wednesday is the way to do justice in this country, he is out of touch.
The Taoiseach: I, the Minister and the Commissioner want to see the Garda Síochána active in communities, interacting with people and being available to people and being seen by them. This engenders confidence and information, which is very important. Things have changed and the capacity of the Garda Síochána to reach into communities, town and country, is changing with it. We need to use modern methods of transport, communications and connection. If Deputy Mattie McGrath wants a new patrol car, he came into contact with the gardaí some time ago and should be very careful about that.
Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed)
Northern Ireland Issues
1. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he will provide details of his meeting with family members of those killed in the Kingsmill massacre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45658/12]
11. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if any progress was made on identifying further areas for North-South co-operation at the North-South Ministerial Council plenary meeting on 2 November 2012. [47587/12]
12. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has spoken to Prime Minister Cameron recently; if justice and home affairs were discussed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48026/12]
I have initiated a series of meetings with families of victims on all sides of the community in Northern Ireland as a sign of the priority my Government attaches to helping to find a lasting resolution to the hurts of the past. On 13 September, I met with the sole survivor and with family members of the ten Protestant workmen killed in the 1976 Kingsmill massacre in south Armagh. I invited the families to meet me so that I could hear at first hand how their lives had been affected by one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles.
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