Public Anger At Carrigaline’s Lack Of Garda Presence
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Writes Ciaran Dineen & Jack White
Years of public frustration at the lack of a visible Garda presence in Carrigaline, as the town’s population increases, is now backed up yet again by official statistics. According to numbers released by An Garda Siochána, there are fewer Gardaí serving the Carrigaline area than in 2020.
Latest figures reveal that as of July 31st 2021, 17 Gardaí and three Sergeants work in the local station, one less than the 18 Gardaí and three Sergeants serving Carrigaline at the end of 2020.
According to Sinn Féin’s Cork-South Central TD, Donnchadh O’Laoghaire recorded numbers from official reports dating this time last year show that in fact the Carrigaline station was then manned by a total of 23 members of An Garda Siochána (AGS), three more than the current total.
For years, there has been major criticism of the force’s operational capacity across Cork, including in Carrigaline, with ongoing concern, anger and frustration over the low number of Gardaí in the area, as well as the lack of station opening hours throughout the week.
Commenting on the situation, Deputy O’Laoghaire recently said, “the stats show that there are only 20 Gardaí serving the over 15,000 people of Carrigaline. That is 3 less Gardaí, compared to this time last year. Of all the large towns in the state, only 3 towns fare worse in terms of Garda numbers. It makes sense that the number of Gardaí should reflect the population of the town. Yet, when we look at towns of a similar size to Carrigaline, they have significantly more Garda resources.”
The Sinn Féin TD, who was formerly the spokesperson for Justice in his party went on to argue that “allocating additional Gardaí to Carrigaline is an essential measure, to ensure that the town can continue its growth as a dynamic, welcoming community. The community of Carrigaline have not been well served by recent allocations of Gardaí. I have raised this with the Minister for Justice as an issue that must be tackled urgently and as a priority.”
In another point, speaking about Crosshaven, Deputy O’Laoghaire also noted that many residents in the neighbouring village had recently contacted him following a spate of anti-social behaviour incidents, which he said had left people living in the area “understandably very upset and concerned”.
With Carrigaline being in the unprecedented position of being the largest town in a constituency served by two senior Government ministers as well as An Taoiseach, The Carrigdhoun Newspaper approached the offices of all three to ask if they were satisfied with the current situation. We reached out to Ministers Michael McGrath TD and Simon Coveney TD, as well as the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD. All parties were explicitly asked whether they believed that the current situation in Carrigaline relating to Garda resourcing was acceptable, and if the Government should be doing more in an attempt to resolve the ongoing issue.
A Government spokesperson, on behalf of the office of the Taoiseach said, “the Garda Commissioner is responsible, by law, for the management, administration and distribution of Garda personnel throughout the State. These powers are independent of Government, which cannot intervene in these decisions. The Minister for Justice is assured, however, that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in light of operational demands on the organisation and emerging crime trends.”
The response is likely not to satisfy those who have a growing frustration over the lack of resources available in Carrigaline and one wonders how a town as large as it is can continue to function at its current rate. Official statistics would indicate that Carrigaline’s size and ever-increasing population is not matched by the number of members of AGS working in the area, given that a similar suburb town such as Ballincollig has nearly three times more staff serving their area. Moreover, the latest figures show that Mitchelstown, an area which boosts about a fifth of the population of Carrigaline, has in fact more gardaí working in their local station, with four Sergeants and 20 gardaí in circulation.
A statement from Minister Michael McGrath offered a much better attempt to address concerns raised, and responded to The Carrigdhoun Newspaper by saying, “as a public representative for Carrigaline and a resident in the Town, I certainly want to see an adequate policing service. I fully respect that people have concerns around this and feeling safe in our community is of paramount importance. Gardai do an incredibly difficult job and by and large have a good relationship with the community. I certainly want to fully support the Guards and being adequately resourced is critically important.”
“The Government has sanctioned additional recruitment of Gardai and this is a key part of the Programme for Government. We also want to bring in reforms to recruit additional civilian support for the Gardai. Our aim is to increase the overall Garda force and this will result in more visible policing in our communities. I fully appreciate the frustration in relation to the opening hours of the Carrigaline Garda Station. I certainly believe this should be improved. Cllr. Séamus McGrath has done significant work in this area and is in regular contact with Senior Gardai on the issue.”
In terms of the day-to-day operations of the service in the area, the Fianna Fáil TD did indicate that Carrigaline-based officers were “on duty” 24 hours a day, but wanted to see an improvement in the opening hours of the station, with clear communication about these times conveyed to the public. However, Minister McGrath also added that direct Government intervention in the matter would be “inappropriate”, and that he did not want the Garda service to become “politicized”.
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney took a similar stance to that of Minister McGrath, responding to the questions posed by The Carrigdhoun Newspaper saying that “It is important to note that the Garda Commissioner is responsible, by law, for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána. This includes the distribution of the Garda Síochána throughout the State. Neither I, nor the Minister for Justice, have any role in these independent functions and I am not able to intervene in these decisions.”
The Minister added to this by noting that “over the last number of years, I have held discussions with the Chief Superintendent & other key members of An Garda Siochana at Anglesea Street regarding policing and Garda numbers in Carrigaline in particular,” however he did not disclose what these conversations were about, and any impact they may have had.
It would appear that despite the collective recognition that elements of the policing service in Carrigaline needs to be improved, members of the incumbent Government are reluctant to directly involve themselves in resolving the matter, leaning on the fact that the management of resources and operations lies with the Garda Commissioner.
Time will tell whether there is a change in appetite to address concerns expressed, but given that yearly figures show an overall decrease in serving officers for the area, despite years of calls for more guards, the issue shows no signs of being resolved, much to the frustration of the public.