A stark warning was issued this week that alleged mismanagement of policing in South Kilkenny would result in The Deep South resembling The Wild West in a few years time. It came from a serving member of the garda force who, for obvious reasons, doesn’t want to be identified.

Describing himself as extremely frustrated and dismayed, he accuses the authorities of a total lack of planning in relation to “boundary changes” which have just been implemented and says he is deeply worried about others that are pending.

In a change effective from June 1 he says the Wexford/Wicklow Garda Division has been split and as a consequence the New Ross District lost Tullogher and Rosbercon to Thomastown, which also now has added responsibility for an area from Glynn down to the Wexford border with Carlow. Furthermore, under the next phase of boundary changes which will see Waterford and Kilkenny divided from July 1, all of South Kilkenny is to come under Thomastown’s care.

But despite that significant extra demand on service and Thomastown’s gardai already being stretched to the limit, the garda says there is no indication of any extra personnel being assigned there.

“An indication of how badly the change has been handled is that a crisis meeting had to be held on June 3 – a mere two days into the new arrangement – to address policing in the added areas”, he reports. Top ranked gardai attended that meeting.

“Management will say that overall strength in Thomastown had already increased significantly in the last two years; they will not say that was in response to spiralling crime figures and was in line with national traffic policing policy”.

He says the forthcoming changes will result in Ferrybank losing out on major support from the city station in Ballybricken, which it traditionally enjoyed. “Thomastown, with only one patrol car from 2 to 6 am, will now have to cover the whole of the area from Waterford City to Kilkenny City and from Windgap to the foot of Mount Leinster.

“Management in Thomastown have had no input into this, staff associations are not being informed and the public are being kept in the dark”, states the garda.

And he goes on to maintain that the boundary changes are being brought about to facilitate the setting up of policing committees which are part of the electoral areas.

He has sent his complaints to leading Kilkenny politicians and says he did so in the hope that they would bring garda management to task “before the problems arising become insurmountable”.

He advises: “Proper planning is needed for these policing changes; issues of manpower, transport and garda stations need to be addressed. The public deserve better and should not tolerate, in particular, the haphazard and dangerously careless nature of the New Ross area handover to Thomastown”.

Pointing to the need for a specially appointed Chief Superintendent to oversee the installation of the new system, he warns sardonically that there will be no point setting up an enquiry in five years time to determine how The Deep South had become like The Wild West.

Senator’s demands

Meanwhile, Senator John Paul Phelan (FG) has called for the establishment of a new garda district for South Kilkenny, following reconstruction of the garda divisions. He said that as matters stand Thomastown will have to handle vastly increased responsibility, apparently without extra staff.

“Thomastown gardai, already stretched, are now responsible for ten new areas in the south of the county and no additional resources have been put in place to assist them. That’s an impossible situation”, the Senator said.

He said that in response to a question he raised in the Seanad, he was told there were no plans to even discuss the appointment of a new Superintendent for the area in the foreseeable future.

“”From what I can see the public are being kept in the dark and therefore put at risk in these areas, as there is clearly not enough garda manpower to manage the new situation”, he said, at the same time calling on the Minister for Justice to address anomalies arising since the introduction of the new boundaries, before matters get out of hand.

“Criminals are not fools and once they realise there are no gardai on duty in certain areas at certain times they will take full advantage”, he warned.