Writes Leo McMahon
Members of Carrigaline Municipal District (MD) are to seek a meeting with An Garda Siochana aimed at increasing the visible presence of officers and additional opening hours for Garda Stations in its area.
The long sought after requests were renewed in motions from Cllrs Seamus McGrath (FF) and Jack White (FG) at the January meeting of the MD against the background of recent serious incidents in Carrigaline town, including a death from a stabbing incident which occurred on December 28th.
Unfortunately within hours of the requests being made, yet another alleged stabbing incident took place on Church Hill near the town centre on Monday night, January 16th.
Cllr McGrath said it had already been pointed out at a recent Joint Policing Committee (JPC) meeting that Garda visibility was critical but there was a general feeling that there currently wasn’t sufficient visibility nor pro-active or preventative type of policing. He stressed that this was not a criticism of local Gardai who were doing their very best but were already far too stretched to cover a wide area.
In support, Cllr White said his motion also sought a meeting in order to request a more visible Garda presence in Carrigaline town centre, and to seek an update from the county council on the use of public closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) there.
Cllr McGrath said An Garda Siochana was trying to provide 24 hours, seven days a week cover in Carrigaline with around 20 Gardai working in four shifts, some of whom might be on leave or on training courses. This resulted in very often, the town having only two Gardai on duty and on some occasions, he was reliably informed, it was down to one which was certainly not good enough. Two Gardai in Passage West and Crosshaven was also insufficient as were the limited opening hours of all three stations in the MD.
He proposed that the MD write to the Garda Commissioner seeking additional resources in the area and better opening hours to make stations more accessible for the public. While acknowledging the independent role of the An Garda Siochana which is above politics, they as elected members had a duty to their constituents to highlight their grave concerns.
Replying to Cllr White’s request for an update on town centre CCTV usage, MD officer Carol Conway said that as agreed at the previous meeting, a request was sent to corporate services in the council on behalf of the MD members that the current status of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)/use of CCTV cameras in public spaces be considered at the next JPC meeting. It would be discussed at the JPC meeting in March.
Welcoming the response, Cllr White said a collaborative approach by the council and Gardai was the only way to progress the use of CCTV as it would benefit both in terms of protecting investment, businesses and for monitoring and tackling of crime in the town centre. He reiterated the concerns being expressed to him about what people saw as a lack of visible policing presence.
Cllr Michael Paul Murtagh (FG), in support, said he had always been consistent about the need for greater Garda numbers and presence on the ground. CCTV had its place for protecting businesses, especially in town centres, but the visual deterrent on the street and presence in a station at the heart of a community were what was really needed.
Cllr Audrey Buckley (FF) supported both motions as did cathaoirleach Cllr Ben Dalton-O’Sullivan (Ind) who began by stating that Carrigaline was a nice town in which to live and work. The issues concerning the staffing and opening hours of the Garda Station dated back to the local election in 2019 after which he himself put down a motion about it.
Over the past three years, he had written to the then Garda Commissioner and Minister for Justice seeking a meeting but got no response. One suggestion was recruiting civilian Gardai to keep stations opened longer but this was never acted on.
Cllr Dalton-O’Sullivan paid tribute to the local Gardai who were over stretched. He for his part had received 65 communications in the aftermath of a recent serious incident and he had since written to the three Ministers in Cork South Central which includes Carrigaline.
Cllr McGrath welcomed the fact that the chief superintendent would be attending the next Carrigaline JPC meeting. Both he and Cllr White assured fellow members that Ministers Micheal Martin (FF), Simon Coveney (FG) and Michael McGrath (FF) were actively trying to get adequate resources for the area without interfering in Garda operational matters.
‘It’s important to say that Carrigaline is a safe town, a vibrant town for those of us who live there, who represent it, who are in business there and who are involved in community groups but there are unfortunate incidents which have led to discussion and media coverage that can portray it in a bad light,’ said Cllr White. Both motions were adopted.