“Calls for more gardaí in Cork ‘have fallen on deaf ears’” ran the headline in the Irish Examiner on Saturday November 2 on the piece by security journalist Sean O’Riordan, who detailed the crime rate in Cork “where the number of gardaí per head of population is lower than similar areas of Dublin.”
As a member of Cork County Council, I have pursued this very serious security problem at that level and beyond, where there was unanimous support, but none at a national level from successive governments.
In all of these debates, I called to have the Irish Army deployed to assist the gardaí in certain areas of security, where our Army continues to protect life and property and are a credit to dear old Ireland. God bless them all, in this life-saving exercise.
Why, may I ask again, is our Army not allowed protect its own country, when under siege? My last response from Government to that question was — “it would require major amendments to legislation”.
There that security issue remains for another day, while communities, such as those in East Cork, remain under siege; vandals, rows, drug-dealing and ram-raids. Such incidents are becoming all too common in towns and villages throughout the country. Newspaper reports tell of "gurriers and hoodlums” making housing estates no-go areas, while court cases detail stolen cars, street rows, broken jaws, break-ins, setting fire to cars, and increased use of hard drugs such as heroin, right across the country.
At present, many people are feeling insecure in their homes, are afraid to walk the streets at night, and are worried about their property or businesses being targeted.
The first step to addressing any problem is to face up to it before it gets out of control.
Only then can we find answers.
At the core is garda manpower and resources. There have been complaints about the lack of gardaí on the beat. It is not solely a garda problem — they require the support, confidence, and co-operation of the community and the Government, and back-up from our Army. All the indications are that manning levels need to be increased while the policy and nature of policing should also be rewarded.
I compliment An Garda Síochána for their efforts to protect people and property, despite curtailment in resources.
Parents have to face up to their responsibilities: the number of juveniles coming before our courts has increased.
Community support in general is needed.
Community leaders and residents can no longer turn a blind eye. They need to take a stance against antisocial behaviour, and co-operate with the gardaí in their work.
The judicial system must also fulfil its central role in ensuring that the culprits, particularly repeat offenders, are dealt with firmly and fairly in a bid to lessen the frustration, fear, and sense of helplessness that many victims feel.
Collective action must be taken before the situation gets completely out of control. A small minority of people should not be allowed to strike fear into their localities and give their communities a bad reputation.
In conclusion, I appeal to all readers to put their shoulders to the wheel, to help rid our country of community crime that is fast destroying the céad míle fáilte welcome, so dear to the hearts of all Irish people.
Cllr Noel Collins