Gardai concerned at risk of rise in rural area vigilantes


GARDAI have expressed concern that a reduction in the numbers involved in rural policing could lead to a breakdown in public confidence and open the door to vigilante groups. At its annual conference in Waterford, the Garda Representative Association (GRA) heard there had been a depletion in Garda numbers and overtime. The conference was told rural police numbers had been depleted, causing a breakdown in public confidence.

Garda John Green, from Roscommon, pointed out that it was possible to reassure people living in rural areas that they could be protected. He referred to "Operation Shannon", mounted last autumn in response to attacks on elderly people will the countryside.

"That is significant proof that where enough manpower is made available, criminals can be stopped and elderly people can live safely in their homes."

Garda Tony Fagan, from Wexford, said Garda policy on rural policing was "riddled with problems and took little or no cognisance of the needs of the public it was said to be catering for."

Garda Fagan referred to a submission to Garda management which criticised some elements of rural policing policy.

The submission concluded: "It is our considered view that the lack of a local man in the satellite stations whom the locals can relate to and identify with leads to a breakdown in local knowledge and, public confidence.

"It also opens the door to vigilante groups being mooted to police in certain areas."

The conference mandated the GRA leadership to seek a "substantial increase in basic pay" and not to "feel bound to accept the terms of any future national agreements".

Speakers said the Garda Siochana had fallen behind other public sector groups as a result of being excluded from involvement in negotiations over the public sector pay awards.

Garda Tim Murphy, of Kerry, said Garda pay had fallen 40 per cent behind the pay of teachers over the past 14 years.