Following the tragic death of city pensioner Paddy Barry, and the traumatic beating suffered by an elderly woman in Grange, County Waterford, a local councillor says the latest “startling” CSO crime statistics underline the increasing vulnerability of our senior citizens.

The figures for the third quarter of 2009 show a 51% increase in aggravated burglaries and a 27% increase in burglaries compared with the same period last year. “This highlights the need for urgent Government action on home defence,” Fine Gael’s John Cummins asserts.

Pointing to the two well-publicised attacks on elderly people in Waterford recently, he said: “All the more alarming is the fact that the Community Support Scheme for Older people, which at the time of Mr Barry’s unfortunate death got much publicity, was reopened on October 1st but has since stopped taking applications again. This is a disgrace and must be highlighted.”

Cllr Cummins added: “It is well known that during periods of economic downturn, burglary figures tend to rise, but a 51% surge in aggravated burglary, when an intruder is armed with an offensive weapon, is worrying in the extreme,” he stressed.

Calling on Justice Minister Dermot Ahern “to reconsider his stubborn stance against Fine Gael’s home defence bill, which would allow a home occupier to stand their ground if confronted by a burglar and would prevent burglars injured on the premises from suing”, Cllr Cummins said “the legislation as it stands does not protect the home owner, in fact it does the opposite, giving burglars the right to sue if injured while breaking into someone’s home.”

Insisting “the law should be on the home owner’s side,” the city councillor said “the spate of burglaries in recent times also highlights the need for greater community policing.

“At present Community Gardaí make up only 6% of the total force. There is a clear need to have Gardaí on the beat deterring would-be burglars. The effects of the €30m cut in Garda overtime are clearly visible.”

Cllr Cummins concluded by saying that “despite Deputy [Brendan] Kenneally’s promise that the Community Support Scheme for Older People would be restored in full, applications were only accepted between October 1st and October 21st. This is a farcical situation and another demonstration that this government cares little about the most vulnerable in society.

“This scheme provided funds to local community and voluntary organisations to install personal monitored alarms and items of home security to enable older people live independently. Personal alarms are now more important than ever.”