Eoghan Dalton Reports
Waterford TDs are “disgusted” and “concerned” with cutbacks across Garda departments over the past decade.
David Cullinane (SF) said the number of community Gardaí has almost halved since 2010 – from 62 in the force then to just 35 in 2017. Meanwhile Mary Butler (FF) found that there has been a similar drop off in the traffic corps in the same time span, with the amount of Gardaí policing County Waterford roads, falling from 26 to 13.
Deputy Cullinane said that the difference community Gardaí can make to an area is too great to be ignored. “They develop strong relationships and trust with people at risk of offending, particularly young people, and direct them in a more positive direction, such as through the Garda Youth Diversion Projects.
“They also improve public confidence in policing locally, and ingrain themselves in community activity locally, and I have seen myself the difference that community Gardaí can make. Failing to make these kinds of investments could undo the good work that was built up, particularly in disadvantaged communities, over many years,” he said.
At a recent public meeting in Waterford city held by the Commission on the Future of Policing, which is doing a nationwide analysis of law enforcement, a key concern raised by people was that of the lack of community Gardaí. This is something the Commission itself saw in many of the cities and towns it visited, from Letterkenny to Cork. Dr Vicky Conway, a member of the Commission, told The Munster Express that the desire for more community Gardaí has been one of the clearest findings from the work carried out.
David Cullinane said that a plan for community Gardaí launched in 2009, titled the National Model of Community Policing, has been “ignored” despite offering a way forward for law enforcement.
“It is increasingly clear that successive Governments, have in fact zero interest in community policing, and are unwilling to invest in it, and the fact that the number of community Gardaí has fallen off a cliff, and indeed is still falling, is proof of that. It is scandalous. The Minister needs urgently to start reversing this,” he said.
Deputy Mary Butler acquired her information about the plunging figures among the traffic corps thanks to parliamentary questions from Fianna Fáil, and she has now called on the Government to support the division.
“The drop in the number of Gardaí assigned to roads policing duties is disproportionate when compared to other areas of the force. It seems that road policing and safety isn’t really a priority for this Government,” Deputy Butler said.
She also hit out at Minister for State John Halligan in her statement, saying that the Waterford TD and his independent colleagues “haven’t batted an eyelid” while letting their senior Government partner Fine Gael preside “over a continuous erosion of the capacity of the Traffic Corps”.
Deputy Butler also said that the Road Safety Authority has repeatedly called for more traffic corps staff, but instead the exact reverse has been happening throughout Waterford and the country as a whole.