The Irish Examiner/ICMSA farming survey reveals that, with 95 rural Garda Stations having closed last year, just 48% of farmers feels that gardaí are doing a good job policing rural Ireland. In fact, two-in-five farmers feel that gardaí are not doing a good job.
Women are more dubious of the performance of rural gardaí that men, with just 44% of them feeling gardaí were performing well, compared to 50% of men, with just 39% of tillage farmers of the opinion that rural policing was adequate.
Geographically, there is also a large difference of opinion on the performance of the gardaí in policing rural areas.
For example, in Dungarvan, Co Waterford, 73% of farmers said the gardaí were doing a good job policing rural Ireland, while in Leitrim, just 29% took this view. In just three of the seven areas surveyed, a majority of farmers felt the gardaí were doing a good job.
The survey also found that three-out-of-five farmers felt that gardaí were not visible on rural roads.
Dungarvan (63%) and Carbery (53%) were the only two regions where a majority of farmers agreed there was a visible Garda presence on the roads.
A concern with the level of policing throughout rural Ireland is clear both in this survey and in the Irish Examiner/ICMSA survey carried out last year.
For example, 34% of farmers now cite crime, law and order and vandalism as key concerns — up from 22% in 2013.
Last year, more than eight out of 10 farmers felt they should be allowed own a gun to protect their property.
President of the ICMSA, John Comer said it was something of a “paradox” that most farmers continued to feel safe in their home, despite a substantial number being critical of the performance and presence of gardaí in rural Ireland.
“The statistic that most quickly jumps out is the paradox that has 85% broadly agreeing that they feel safe in their homes compared to the 40% that either slightly or strongly disagree with the proposition that ‘the gardaí are doing a good job policing rural Ireland’.”
“The paradox between numbers feeling safe in their homes and those dissatisfied with aspects of rural policing is even more pronounced when we look at figures for the proposition ‘There is a visible presence of gardaí on rural roads’ — practically twice as many disagree with that as agree with it,” he said.
Mr Comer said the findings could be seen as farmers feeling that the gardaí had failed to get a handle on the number of gangs seeing rural Ireland as a soft touch for robbery.
“This can only be interpreted as a criticism of the inability to police or control gangs travelling around rural districts on robbery sprees and might be directly linked to the wave of metal theft which ICMSA raised publicly a few years ago at the Ploughing and which was meant to be addressed by a metal theft forum from which very little has been heard,” he said.