Seanad debates

Wednesday, 28 February 2024

Community Safety and Investment: Motion [Private Members]


10:30 am

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I compliment Senator Moynihan on bringing forward the Labour Party motion. As she spoke, I had visions of my youth where there was one garda in Salthill in Galway and that one garda was able to police the entire holiday resort. I remember a row breaking out one night in Salthill and the garda stood in the middle of the road and put the two opposing sides on either side the street and nobody dared move. Try doing that today.

It is all very well for the Minister to talk about community gardaí and all that sort of thing. Twice today I heard the term "pinch points". The last time I heard pinch points was from the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces. He said there were problems, pinch points. We had eight ships in service at that time and we have one in service now. We had close to 8,500 soldiers at that time. We have 7,500 now. We had an Air Corps that was fully serviceable at that time. We do not have that now. Pinch points do not answer the question.

There are serious problems in the Garda Síochána. What we are doing is moving services from community policing into armed services where we have high profile thugs operating in some parts of the country. They need an armed response so from that point of view the Garda Commissioner, superintendents and chief superintendents have to use the resources to tackle the worst cases. The removal of the community garda is really to the detriment of the organisation in so many ways.

Senator Moynihan said that everybody in her community knew the garda by name. That is hugely important. Kids grow up knowing that is Garda Burke, Garda Murphy, or whatever. They get to know them and they get comfortable with them. Those community gardaí pick up so much intelligence on the ground and that is hugely important.

Where are we running into a problem? The Minister has put in a recruitment system and young gardaí are walking out the gate. Why are they walking out? They are walking out because they realise the post-2013 pension, which is known as the single pension scheme, will give them absolutely nothing. They go in, they see the career in front of them and they say "Hang on a minute. At the end of my 40 years' service, I will have nothing. I will have a miserable pension which is based on my entire service." It used to be the case that if you got promoted, the pension you got was based on the last three years of your service. Now the pension is based on career average. It is rubbish. It is nonsense. It is driving uniformed services - gardaí, firefighters, prison officers and military personnel - out the gates. The single pension legislation that was brought in by people who took their big pensions before they left the Civil Service themselves, has decimated the Civil Service but it has particularly decimated those services that are on accelerated pension schemes. That has to be fixed. The Department of Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform has to go back and look at the way it has tackled pensions, and it has to fix that and fix it urgently.

I call today for a liaison officer. If we look at the situation in Blanchardstown, for example, if there was a liaison officer in the Garda station there, county councillors, Senators and TDs could pick up the phone and talk to Garda Murphy, Garda Maguire, or whatever his or her name might be, so that there would be an immediate contact to deal with a crisis situation in the area. I think that is a reasonable request. If we cannot have community policing, the very least we should have is a community police officer that can be contacted directly at the Garda headquarters in a particular region or in a particular Garda station in the case of Dublin.

The Labour Party proposal outlined by Senator Moynihan would be the ideal for Dublin city, Limerick, Galway, and various other places. My colleague, Senator Maria Byrne, will remember the bad old days in Limerick. It was community policing and commitment from the local people that fixed it.


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