Fears about legally-held firearms falling into the wrong hands have been raised by members of the Gardai in Waterford.

Fine Gael TD John Deasy brought the subject up under last Wednesday’s order of business in the Dail. It follows the release of figures highlighting a rise in gun crime in Waterford and the South East, with nine shootings recorded in the Waterford/Kilkenny garda division in 2007 and five in the first half of this year.

The number of arrests for firearms-related offences in the area is expected to show a marked increase on account of the still-simmering Traveller feud that erupted last summer.

Deputy Deasy said: “Last June I raised the issue of a six-fold increase in the number of licensed handguns in the State. A number of court cases have liberalised the ownership of such guns.

“The last response from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in June indicated he would implement the remaining Parts of the Criminal Justice Act as quickly as possible and he said he would bring forward technical amendments to enable their commencement in the criminal justice (miscellaneous provisions) Bill, which he said at the time would be ‘published in the coming weeks’. It has not been published yet.

“Since then”, he added, “I have been contacted unprompted by senior gardaí in Waterford about this. The Minister is not taking this seriously enough. If he says he will publish legislation on an issue as grave as this, he should do so and he should take it seriously.”

Responding on behalf of the Government, Tánaiste Mary Coughlan told him: “I am advised by the Minister [Dermot Ahern] that he is actively considering this matter.”