Rural groups urge caution despite Garda cover

Community organisations told to stick with contingency plans as strike action proceeds

Members of Kilcummin Community Alert, Co  Kerry, meeting at Kilcummin Post Office before checking on their elderly neighbours and friends. Photograph: Valerie O’Sullivan

Members of Kilcummin Community Alert, Co Kerry, meeting at Kilcummin Post Office before checking on their elderly neighbours and friends. Photograph: Valerie O’Sullivan

 

Leading rural organisations have advised local community groups to stick with contingency plans to support anxious residents despite the decision by the Garda Representative Association (GRA) to provide policing cover today.

Yesterday afternoon, the GRA announced that it was urging members attached to various units, including the Emergency Response Unit and the Drugs Organised Crime Bureau, to turn up for duty today.

While welcoming the decision, various rural organisations have said that communities should remain vigilant in the face of reduced services.

“We are advising all community groups to continue with their plans to ensure that there is a higher visibility of people who are part of the various community watch programmes,” said Séamus Boland, chief executive of Irish Rural Link, which represents disadvantaged and marginalised rural areas.

“We’re concerned that there is still uncertainty about coverage in terms of ‘the beat’, which in rural community terms means rural areas.”

Elderly residents

Niall Garvey

“I’ve seen the units called in to act, and that is welcome, but none of the units will be able to support rural communities,” he said. “The concern of the rural community remains.”

Mr Garvey said many local groups had contingency plans in place to reassure elderly people that someone is watching out for them.

One such group is Kilcummin Community Alert Group which started visiting isolated elderly residents yesterday evening.

“We are very isolated and we will have no contact with the gardaí when they will be out, so we will have to be very active,” said group chair Ben Brosnan.

While the group are essentially “powerless without the gardaí”, he is confident that the active presence of volunteers in the area will ward off any potential criminal activity.

Farming groups

John Comer

“We have to have a resolution and the responsibility is on all sides to make sure that the citizens of the State – particularly the old and frail – are not burdened with worry and anxiety that they might be subject to criminal acts with no official protection or response,” he said.

Séamus Sherlock, rural development chairman of the Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers’ Association, also encouraged farmers to be alert and to ensure that valuable equipment was locked away.

He said that while “leaving vulnerable and isolated people completely unprotected is unacceptable”, any additional Garda cover today was a welcome relief for rural dwellers hit by the closures of rural Garda stations in recent years.

Farmers living in areas previously targeted by gangs also called for calm and praised the recent work of gardaí in tackling rural crime.

Clive Clarke, of Barna, Co Offaly, who told Newstalk in March that farmers had started night patrols to protect their homes, said local gardaí had done an “amazing job” in recent months, with crime now almost non-existent in the area.

“You don’t hear on the six o’clock news the good work they do,” he said. “You only hear, ‘oh, they’re going on strike’. Well, they’re right to go on strike. And if they want someone to hold a placard, I’ll go with them.”