Rural communities are to receive extra funding for CCTV and text alert schemes to help tackle the scourge of crime.

The Government also hopes to expand the local transport link service to allow people in isolated areas to access health services, go shopping, and attend social events.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has announced that an additional €100,000 will now be available to local communities this year to go towards the cost of running local Text Alert Schemes.

Communities are also being encouraged to set up CCTV schemes in a bid to tackle rural crime with €1m available for this over the next three years.

Speaking at the National Ploughing Championships in Screggan, Co Offaly, Mr Flanagan said the text alert rebate scheme will now be available to almost 1,000 local groups registered under the Garda Text Alert Scheme.

“The Government’s response to crime, and to burglaries in particular, has focused on two key objectives: investing in the capacity of An Garda Síochána to tackle criminals and enforce the law effectively; and updating and strengthening the law where necessary,” said Mr Flanagan.

The minister also urged people to apply for community-based CCTV systems and said technology has a massive role to play in the “prevention and reduction of local crime, disorder, and anti-social activity and increase community involvement to prevent and reduce crime in local areas”.

“The use of these technologies will help in the fight against rural crime,” he said.

The minister said both the text alert scheme and CCTV systems are a perfect example of citizens working in tandem with their local gardaí to provide a safer community for all those who live there.

“This type of work is beginning to pay off, CSO figures for 2016 show that we had a 30% drop in burglaries. Let no one have any doubt about the commitment of An Garda Siochána and this Government to ensure that we tackle crime in this country.”

Separately, Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring highlighted the importance of improved connectivity in rural areas as he attended the brand launch of the Local Link service at the National Ploughing Championships.

Local Link is a Government-supported nationwide community-based public transport system funded by the Department of Transport which enables people to get from remote rural areas into nearby towns and villages.

Mr Ring said there is already a number of pilot schemes, including one operating in the Sligo and Leitrim areas, which brings 500 patients to hospital appointments every day and a further 57 patients are transported three days a week to have kidney dialysis.

Last year over 1.7m Local Link journeys took place in rural Ireland and the Government now wants to expand these transport links.

“With rural isolation it is very, very important that we have services like this but these services don’t work without the community and we don’t thank the community enough,” Mr Ring said.

“I would like to see these links set up in every corner of the country and in every county because isolation is not just in the Midlands not just in the North or the East or the West — it is everywhere.

“If you live down in Blacksod in Mayo you are over 120 miles away from the nearest regional hospital in Galway and sometimes people on social welfare don’t have the resources, they don’t have the money, and are probably missing hospital appointments and these services being provided with the community, the Local Link, and the HSE are working very well.”

He said he would like to see the service being used for social as well as necessary hospital appointments. For example, he said trips to the local pub could be used as a way of tackling social isolation. “What we want is to see the service used and I hope we will.”

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