IFA stresses the need for physical Garda presence


THE president of the Irish Farmers Association, Mr John Donnelly, said yesterday there was no substitute for the physical presence of gardai in protecting rural communities. He was commenting on reports that the Garda is to reduce further the number of rural stations which have a round-the-clock service.

A spokeswoman in the Garda press office said there was "just a discussion document" on the extension of community policy "but we have nothing on it".

The spokeswoman added that there could be no comment on the number of stations that might be affected as the discussions were still at a very preliminary stage.

Mr Donnelly said if the downgrading of the rural stations went ahead, the IFA would see it as a regressive step and inconsistent with what the Government was saying during the bail referendum.

"It would also be inconsistent with the Garda's own policy as reflected in the reintroduction of Operation Shannon," Mr Donnelly added.

Operation Shannon was introduced last year to prevent attacks on people living in remote parts of the west. It was judged to be a success but was reintroduced last November following the resumption of such attacks.

"The downgrading of rural Garda stations is akin to the closure of rural post offices," said Mr Donnelly. "It amounts to a vote of no confidence in rural communities." He said the physical presence of gardai was absolutely essential for the well-being of people living in rural areas.