Farmers’ group rejects Garda view that rural crime is falling
People are no longer bothering to report incidents, says Irish Farmers’ Association
IFA Director General Damian McDonald, deputy president Richard Kennedy and president Joe Healy listen to Tánaiste Simon Coveney addressing the IFA national council in Dublin. Photograph: Finbarr O’Rourke
The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has strongly rejected the Garda view that rural crime is falling.
The organisation’s deputy president Richard Kennedy told the Oireachtas Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality on Wednesday that rural areas are experiencing more crime, which is becoming increasingly violent, but people are not bothering to report it to gardaí.
According to the Garda, there has been a decrease in rural crimes, including burglary, in recent years. Last week, gardaí told the committee it is safer to live in an rural area than an urban environment.
However, Mr Kennedy said “many farmers and rural dwellers live in real fear for their safety, which is compounded by geographic and service isolation.
“Theft of valuables from rural homes and of livestock and machinery from farms is also a major concern.”
He said he would “totally disagree” with the view that crime is falling. “We’re not in here to bash the gardaí but there is no question that there is an abandonment in rural areas. The Garda force is simply not there.”
Asked about statistics showing a fall in rural crime, Mr Kennedy said people have given up reporting it.
He said rural crime has also “undoubtedly” become more violent. “It’s worse it’s getting because these people are getting away scot-free.”
Mr Kennedy said the way Garda districts were divided up could cause confusion for rural residents and for gardaí themselves. He said there was a farm theft recently which occurred one kilometre from a Garda station but was investigated by officers from another station, 22km away.
On another occasion, a Garda helicopter and the Armed Support Unit were tracking a group of criminals in the countryside. When a resident rang up the local station to say they had spotted the gang, the local gardaí did not know an operation was ongoing.
The IFA is calling for the establishment of a dedicated Rural Crime Task Force, similar to those operating in the UK, which could liaise with the PSNI. Such a system would help combat cross-Border gangs which are likely to become an increasing problem in the event of a hard border being imposed post-Brexit, he said.
Seamus Sherlock of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association told the committee farm thieves are acting with “impunity”.