Garda numbers down in southern region

Michael Healy-Rae linked lowergarda numbers to rising crime.

Garda manpower resources in the southern region, which covers Cork, Kerry, and Limerick, fell by 2.2% last year with 48 fewer gardaí stationed in the three counties compared to 2013.

Figures supplied by the Department of Justice show that there were 2,093 gardaí based in the region compared to 2,141 just 12 months earlier.

The biggest reduction in Garda staffing levels in the region occurred in Limerick where numbers have decreased by almost 4% — down 23 to 565 gardaí.

However, Limerick, which has the second highest crime rate in the country after Dublin, still has one of the highest concentration of gardaí per capita in the Republic, with 28 gardaí per 10,000 population.

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Across Ireland, the overall number of gardaí working in the State’s 563 Garda stations fell by 307 to 10,976 — a drop of 2.7%.

Reductions in the number of gardaí serving in Kerry and three Garda divisions in Cork were below the national average.

The size of the force in Kerry stood at 290 at the end of 2014 — down six gardaí or 2% over the previous year. However, Kerry has relatively fewer gardaí in terms of population size compared to many other counties at just 20.5 per 10,000 people.

The number of gardaí based in Cork City was 670 last year — a decrease of 12, or 1.8%, while the reduction in Garda manpower was even smaller in the county’s other two Garda divisions of Cork North (-3 to 297) and Cork West (-4 to 271).

Garda staffing levels across Cork county are close to the national average of just under 24 per 10,000 population.

At district level, the figures show that there was almost a 5% fall in the number of gardaí in Killarney last year — an area which also covers Kenmare, Caherciveen, and Killorglin.

Garda staffing levels also fell by in excess of 4% in other districts, including Newcastlewest, Bandon, Limerick City North, Macroom, and Mayfield.

In contrast, there was an increase in Garda numbers in some divisions during 2014 — Clonakilty, Listowel, and Bruff.

Since 2009, there has been a 5% reduction in overall Garda manpower in the southern region.

However, the figure rises to a drop of 21% for the Killarney district, which now has 27 fewer gardaí than six years ago.

Independent TD for Kerry South Michael Healy-Rae said it was clearly obvious to people living in the area that there was considerably lower levels of Garda visibility in recent years.

“There’s a direct link between the lack of gardaí and an increase in crime which is largely due to the disastrous policy of former justice minister Alan Shatter to allow so many rural Garda stations to close,” said Mr Healy-Rae.

“No money has been saved by their closure.”

Mr Healy-Rae also expressed concern that there were large amounts of crime which were going unreported by victims.

Although 550 new gardaí will have been trained by the end of 2016, Garda representative groups maintain that such numbers need to be recruited annually in order to just maintain the size of the force at its current level at just below 13,000.

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