Wednesday, 18 November 2020
Community Safety and Preventing Crime: Statements
Community policing, the presence of community gardaí and drug divisional units are important. These are the people with their finger on the pulse of where communities are at and show how information can be got.
The divisional drug unit for Cavan-Monaghan is doing terrific work and is important for our community and society. Unfortunately, recreational drugs are more prevalent, more readily available and are becoming more socially acceptable. The drugs divisional unit in Cavan-Monaghan, unfortunately, needs more resources put into it. It is doing terrific work. Not that long ago, Bailieborough community alert held a public meeting about this very topic at which a number of people attended. Detective Sergeant Mick Kearney spoke that night and gave a very stark presentation about how freely and readily available drugs are in settings that we might normally not expect them to be, such as recreational and sporting settings. It came as a shock to some of the people who attended that meeting.
The drugs divisional unit in Cavan-Monaghan covers a large area comprising two counties. It is located in an old Garda station in Cootehill. For the past nine months, it has been working with drastically reduced staff numbers with one sergeant and three gardaí when it should have one sergeant and five gardaí. I accept this has been due to replacements, retirements, people moving on and transfers. For example, the traffic corps unit has three sergeants and 13 gardaí.
Drug-driving detection has significantly increased by 106%, particularly since lockdown. There are several reasons for that. Gardaí are more visible on the beat, giving them greater opportunity to do this type of detection. This makes drivers and users more aware. A 106% detection rate tells its own story.
Will the Minister give this unit the staff it needs? Drugs units should have two sergeants and ten gardaí. Cavan-Monaghan is currently working with one sergeant and three gardaí. Bigger inroads can be made in terms of the staff required and the expertise needed. The unit is working from the old Garda station in Cootehill. It could do with better facilities and better transport. The staff working there are doing terrific work.
My understanding is that both the detective sergeant and the gardaí are interviewed every two years. They only have a two-year contract. As a Government, we need to send a strong message that our divisional drugs units are there in force, they are fully staffed and resourced and their staff are there permanently. They should not be in place on a transient two-year basis. This unit does a very important and specific job and the resources it receives should reflect that.