Sir, - Of course P. J. Stone's criticisms were correct. He may be upbraided for lack of tact, but I doubt if many will disavow his sentiments. Judicial policy and its administration in the country have degenerated into a paralysing collective farce, under, the present government.

The inconsistencies are glaring. On the one hand, we have republican inmates denied leave at Christmas, while "ordinary decent criminals" serve their sentences in the time it takes to smoke a cigarette. Gardai work themselves into a lather running down motor tax offenders; almost whole days are given over in district courts to dealing with these "criminals". This is an example of what I call the £2 note approach to justice, obviously bogus and lacking all credibility. Serious crime is rampant, reader. But is your tax and insurance up to date?

However, the Animal Farm social mix in our society ensures that we all don't have to rough it equally. Ministers, judges and other VIPs receive constant Garda protection. This policy impacts on us all by depriving the ordinary citizenship of adequate Garda manpower.

I invite readers to ascertain two facts from their local Garda station: (a) what population does it service, and (b) how many gardai are available there to deal with an emergency at any one time? Your sleep will never be the same again. Decency prompts me to pass over recent Garda embarrassments.

Despite the apparent shortage of gardai in rural and urban Ireland, border stations are still tightly stocked. Why this should continue to be, in the aftermath of the ceasefire, is almost indecent. Perhaps even GUBU?

All three parties to the present Government have been able to fund a pet project. Redevelopment there, redevelopment here, consultants' fees gushing from the public purse, millions to Teilifis gan Ciall, and a few bob to the lesbians. And all this in the teeth of a wind of crime that is seemingly beyond control.

The Budget poured cold water - on notions that the Government might do something useful about the situation. So what is left to us? Cold comfort? A grudgingly paid insurance claim? What happened to the £26 million which was to finance a new Garda information system? How much of that will have to go the way of consultants - before a further prolongation of inactivity can be signalled?

It is easy to criticise, for sure, But there is a lot to criticise. It is clear that the past focus of the system on so called political crime has rendered it completely ineffectual on other fronts. Frustratingly, we hear of no solution being planned. There is nothing to deliver. That's the worrying news.

I might not live in Dublin 4, or its environs. And I don't have the ear of any TD in my area - just as well, or I might chew both off. But I do have the ear of local farmers, ordinary rural dwellers and the bearer of all burdens, the PAYE worker. There is an unremitting feeling that the current Government just isn't interested in providing an adequate policing and judicial service. And it is a feeling confirmed by fact when one examines the Budget.

If the present Minister for Justice, Ms Owen, is unwilling or unable to undertake a root and branch reform of the policing and judicial system, she should resign. And take the rest of the Cabinet with her. A government which is not willing to invest resources properly in the protection of its communities is undermining its own legitimacy.

If there was ever a genuine issue in the recent past on which an election should be fought, it is this one. For whomever the bell may toll, it certainly seems not to toll for certain members of our society. - Yours, etc.,


Co Meath.