Wednesday, 27 February 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I am happy to second the proposal made earlier in the proceedings by Senator Norris. It is important too that we would have an early debate on defence matters, especially on the pay and conditions of those who serve in the Defence Forces. That is important also in the context of the outcome of the vote that might arise from our consideration of Senator Norris's proposal.
I rise today to express my concern about what is going on in my home town of Drogheda at the moment. The town is in a state of fear. As Members of the House will know, an attempt was made on a man’s life yesterday in a horrific gun attack outside a toy store in a retail park on the north side of Drogheda. The Garda is very clear that it was connected to an ongoing violent criminal feud in the town. Drogheda simply does not have enough members of An Garda Síochána policing the streets or available to senior Garda management. Cities of an equivalent scale and towns that are much smaller, such as Dundalk and Sligo, for example, have units and shifts for 12 to 14 gardaí while in Drogheda many of the units only have five or six gardaí. Yesterday, only one marked Garda car was available to police an area with a population of 50,000, which is absolutely disgraceful. Last week, an overtime ban was introduced for the Drogheda area. In addition, in recent days I understand that the armed response unit was withdrawn from the area so there was no access to a full-time armed response unit in the middle of a violent criminal feud that is striking fear into the people of my home town. That is not good enough. It is disgraceful and absolutely scandalous.
The Minister for Justice and Equality, in a PR stunt, visited Drogheda Garda station in December. He is on record as saying that Drogheda will get what Drogheda wants and what Drogheda needs. What Drogheda got was 18 additional probationer gardaí, straight out of Templemore but we have only retained three to supplement a stretched Garda force in the town that is not sufficient even to undertake normal policing duties let alone police a violent criminal feud. People’s lives are at stake and it is only a matter of time before somebody is killed. My fear is that the first person to be killed will be an innocent bystander not connected to any criminal activity whatsoever in Drogheda. We need to have an urgent debate in this House and hear the Minister for Justice and Equality make a commitment to the people of Drogheda that the police force in our town will be properly resourced, not just to police the violent criminal feud but to do normal policing work, as we are entitled to expect.