Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Niamh Smyth has called on the Justice Minister to get serious about rising rural crime.  It has taken a number of high profile burglaries to put the issue on the Government agenda, despite the fact that communities across the country have been calling for increased resources and supports for years.

Deputy Smyth raised the issue with Minister Charlie Flanagan in the Dáil this week.

“There is no doubt that criminals are targeting rural areas because they know that there’s no Garda presence on the ground.  Following the downgrading of Cootehill and Ballyconnell Garda Stations, we’ve seen a spike in the number of burglaries in these areas – in fact, there have been eight break-ins between Clones and Mountain Lodge.  The majority of them have happened in broad daylight – generally in the morning – when people are at work or out doing errands”, explained Deputy Smyth.

“One couple from Cootehill, who are in their 70s have had their farmyard broken into three times in recent weeks, and despite having barricaded machinery, thieves were still able to make off with some of their equipment.  This couple live in fear of this gang returning again.  Over the past couple weeks, 16 homes and businesses within an 8 mile radius of Cootehill have been targeted.  In another incident in Bailieborough, more than €15,000 worth of equipment belonging to the local Community Employment Scheme was stolen.

“Another family in Mountain Lodge returned to their home to find three men ransacking their home.  One of the men was standing at their back door armed with a hurley.  They had to wait 40 minutes for the Gardaí – who were coming from Carrickmacross – to arrive.  This is completely unacceptable.

“The increase in burglaries and break ins comes at a time when we have seen the downgrading of services at Ballyconnell and Cootehill Garda Stations.  Both stations had been operating on a 24 hour basis until their hours were reduced earlier this year.  The number of Gardaí on the ground has also been dramatically reduced – down from 413 in 2010 to 330 now.  It is no coincidence that at a time when Garda resources have been trimmed to the bone that crime in these areas is on the rise.

“Minister Flanagan appears to think that Operation Thor is a cure-all for criminality.  Unfortunately it’s not and he needs to accept that it’s only when we see increased resources for our force and more Gardaí on the ground that we can expect things to improve.

“Earlier this week I met with Kathleen O’Toole, who is leading the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, and I raised my concerns with her.

“These issues will also be addressed at a public meeting on rural crime that I am hosting on the 4th of December.  Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Justice Jim O’Callaghan will address the event.  The meeting will take place in the Bailie Hotel, Bailieborough at 7.30pm”.