'Hard to pull the door and walk away'

Fri, Feb 1, 2013, 00:00

Sgt Robert Conroy strolled down the garden path in front of the Garda station on Main Street, Dromahair, hand outstretched in greeting as yet another well-wisher dropped in to express solidarity.

“How do you think I feel? I have been here for 17 years. It’s going to be hard to just walk away and pull the door behind me,” he said.

A car slowed and a local man assured him it was like “losing family”.

Five Garda stations in Co Leitrim closed yesterday. Sgt Conroy isn’t impressed with the suggestion that just because there were only 27 crimes recorded at this station in 2011 – considerably more than the four recorded at Glenfarne station in the north of the county – that the closures are justified. “Isn’t that an indication of how effective local gardaí have been?” he asked.

Margaret Sharkey, PRO of Dromahair Community Development Association, says people are “beaten down” and the closure of Garda stations is just another body blow for those who feel abandoned.

“We will set up a Facebook page and establish links with the other 100 communities who are losing their Garda stations,” she pledged yesterday.

Gemma Doyle, whose husband Walter, a retired garda, served for many years in Dromahair, says people are already frightened and are going to be even more so as gardaí are moved out of small communities into larger urban centres.

“I know people who go to bed with shotguns by their beds. I know women living alone who are so scared that they keep cans of hairspray by their pillow . That’s the reality of living in Ireland today.”

‘Thin blue line’

Walter Doyle says that five years after retirement he still gets calls from former colleagues in Manorhamilton Garda station “asking where does so and so live”.

Doyle believes the force has already been reduced by 2,000 and is set to drop by another thousand given the level of retirements each year.

“There is a thin blue line,” he said. “There are 450,000 people unemployed in this country. The majority of them are decent people but I believe there will be rioting in the streets just like in Britain.”