Fears elderly will become easy target

Some parts of Kerry will now be more than an hour away from their nearest 24-hour Garda station, following the closure of nine stations in the county, some of which had been there since the days of the Royal Irish Constabulary in the 19th century.

Communities have begun meetings with senior gardaí and politicians to discuss alternative policing services.

Concerns are also being raised about a possible increase in crime, amid claims that elderly people, especially, will now be easy targets in rural areas for highly mobile criminal gangs.

Stations closing are in Ballinskelligs, Valentia Island, Beaufort, Kilgarvan, Lauragh, Brosna, Abbeydorney, Camp, and Fenit.

Last year, three Kerry stations closed in Cloghane, Ballylongford, and Moyvane.

Beaufort had a Garda station for as long as anyone locally can remember, with a sergeant and a garda being based there for many years.

Services, however, have been reduced in recent years and the area serviced by gardaí from Killarney, which is some 12km away.

Scenic Beaufort is in the shadows of the MacGillycuddy Reeks and includes well-frequented tourist landmarks such as the Gap of Dunloe and the Black Valley.

Beaufort Community Council chairman Tim Moriarty — who called on the government to reverse the closure decision — said people had shown their concerns by turning out in large numbers for a public meeting locally on the issue.

“What’s coming across is that rural people are feeling more and more isolated and are seeing various services being gradually taken from them.

“It’s all about Dublin and once you come outside Kildare, the rest is forgotten about,” he said.

“Everyone fears our parish will be targeted when the station closes, which is seen as a step backwards.

“We’ve a lot of elderly people living here and people always felt it easy to approach a local garda, who gave them a sense of security, but that’s all over now.

“This is also a popular tourist area, with thousands of visitors coming through each year. Things arise that require garda attention from time to time. We’re appealing to the Minister for Justice to reconsider his decision, even at this late stage,” he said.

The final closure of the Valentia station is seen as an acceleration of the trend whereby services have been disappearing from the island in recent years.

At one time, picturesque Valentia had a sergeant and three gardaí, but the island station has been effectively closed for several years, with policing being provided from Caherciveen.

Valentia once had three primary schools; it now has one. The island’s two post offices have already closed, only one shop remains and a filling station closed in 2011, while the island creamery has been closed for several years.

“There has been a gradual decline in services that were once taken for granted.

“On a positive note, however, our Coastguard station has been retained, after a hard battle,” said local community activist Anthony O’Connell.

Local politicians have claimed the closure of garda stations in south Kerry and West Cork will leave large sections of coastline — where there have been major seizures in recent years — exposed to drug trafficking.

The closure of the Lauragh Garda Station, in the Beara Peninsula, means there will be no garda based along the 50km stretch between Kenmare, in Co Kerry, and Castletownbere, in Co Cork.

The Adrigole station, on the other side of the Healy Pass, in Co Cork, is also to be closed.

What it now means for Lauragh, in the parish of Tuosist, is the nearest 24-hour garda station is more than an hours’ journey away in Killarney.

Lauragh Tidy Towns chairman Jim O’Sullivan said people were concerned for their security.

“If there’s a problem at night, for instance, it will be at least an hour before a garda arrives from Killarney, a distance of more than 60km along a road that’s not so good, and that’s a big worry,” he remarked.

“It’s also being seen as a gradual erosion of services in our area. The only pub in Lauragh, An Sibín, closed two years ago and there are also fears for the future of the local school and the presbytery.

“Our local garda retired in Nov 2011 and was not replaced,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

A public meeting will be held in Lauragh Community Centre tomorrow night at 8.30 to consider the consequences of the Garda station’s closure.

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