Extra gardaí for Drogheda ‘not a flash in the pan’, says Harris

Police chief seeks to reassure public over escalating violence in Co Louth town

Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Photograph: Simon Carswell

Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Photograph: Simon Carswell

 

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has sought to reassure people in Drogheda that additional gardaí being assigned to deal with the town’s feuding drug gangs was “not just a flash in the pan”.

Speaking on a visit to the town with Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan on Thursday night, Mr Harris said the 25 new gardaí being sent to the town would be permanent after their arrival on June 10th.

In addition, the commissioner has assigned an armed support unit from Dundalk and the Emergency Response Unit to the town as part of the policing crackdown to deal with an increasingly violent feud.

“I know that people are afraid and we are here tonight to offer reassurance. This is an ongoing operation,” said Mr Harris.

“I can promise that to people. This is not just a flash in the pan for a couple of nights. We are committed to deal with this.”

The commissioner and Minister travelled to Drogheda to hear from senior management on local policing efforts to tackle the growing violence that has included several petrol bomb attacks and the attempted murder of a man in a gun attack last week.

There have been more than 70 feud-related incidents in the Louth town since last year.

The increase in violence prompted calls from rank-and-file gardaí for 24-hour armed units to be set up in every Garda division in the country.

On Thursday night the commissioner urged members of the public in Drogheda to come forward to the Garda or the Crimestoppers phone line if they had any information about drug-dealing or other criminality.

“Don’t be afraid. Give us information. They are the few. We are the many and if we can band together, we can bring them to justice to end this,” said Mr Harris.

Under Operation Stratus, 319 “proactive searches” have been carried out along with 870 roads policing checkpoints and 1,253 uniform and plainclothes patrols, gardaí said.

Mr Flanagan told reporters outside Drogheda Garda Station that he was satisfied a “sustained and strenuous effort” was being made by the Garda to “stamp out unacceptable criminality.”

“I am very anxious to reassure communities here that the conduct of a very small number of thugs in this area will not be tolerated,” said the Minister.

Mr Flanagan said that the violence was “damaging the reputation of the good town of Drogheda”.

“I am satisfied that resources will be made available in order to ensure that we put these incidents to an end,” he said.

Mr Harris said that the Criminal Assets Bureau could become involved in dealing with the feud too, pointing to “a very significant blow” dealt by CAB to one of the crime gangs last summer.

Fine Gael TD for Louth Fergus O’Dowd said that he was “very reassured” that the Garda complement has been increased and that the additional members of the force are being assigned permanently.

“’That is hugely important,” he said.