Funding of some €27m for powerful Garda cars to help tackle raiders who terrorise rural communities was announced yesterday by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.
She was speaking at Templemore College at the graduation of 94 new gardaí.
Ms Fitzgerald said at least another 500 gardaí will be recruited next year.
She said the problems surrounding rural crime had worsened when Garda recruitment was halted by the previous government and investment in Garda vehicles was stopped.
As well as increased Garda numbers and better vehicles, she said Garda management now increased overtime budgets available to them.
Discussing the closure of rural Garda stations, the minister said: “There was a rationale behind that closure at the time. Many of those stations had very limited hours. What we have now is 61,000 extra hours available by gardaí to do the kind of work that’s needed in rural and urban areas.”
Ms Fitzgerald said what will allay fears in rural areas is investment in An Garda Síochána to ensure effective frontline policing.
She said: “We want to see high-quality policing and that’s important and that’s our intention and that’s what will be delivered. We have the new burglary bill which will go through the Dáil this session, which will ensure those serial repeat burglars who are causing much of the distress around the country will be dealt with very effectively with longer sentencing and tougher conditions for bail.
“We have a number of very mobile gangs and thats why we are investing in Garda vehicles: €27m as opposed to €4m previously.”
On the Fennelly report, Ms Fitzgerald said there are lessons for politicians to learn from its findings.
Ms Fitzgerald said it was clear that former Garda commissioner, Martin Callinan had a decision to make: “It was his choice to retire and he had options. I am not going to rewrite the Fennelly commission. The person who had all the information in front of him was Judge Fennelly. He came up with a series of recommendations or findings.
“I accept those and I would ask other people to accept them. That’s why you set up commissions. You don’t start re-inventing the commission after it has reported.
“And clearly there are lessons to be learned, I certainly accept there are lessons to be learned from the commission’s report as in all such commission [reports] about procedures and protocols, both for An Garda Síochána and indeed for politicians.”
Questioned about Mr Callinan’s missing phone SIM card, she said: “The commission did everything they could to find all relevant documentation and they had extensive powers, and you saw what their conclusions were. The point I would make in relation to that is that An Garda Síochána are now examining that report and clearly if new protocols and procedures are necessary in relation to either SIM cards or notes, such as were examined in the Fennelly commission, then new procedures, new protocols will have to be put in place.”
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