*Supt Ollie Baker.
EAST CLARE’S Garda resources will not be diminished despite the area being without a Superintendent under the newly amalgamated Garda Division with Tipperary.
Of the six Superintendents are in the amalgamated Garda Division of Clare and Tipperary, all but one of them are based in the Premier County.
Under the new operating model which came into effect on August 27th, there have been major changes across the Division. Mountshannon, Scariff and Killaloe are now under the East Clare Tipperary North Community Engagement functional area along with Nenagh, Roscrea, Newport, Borrisokane, Toomevara, Cloughjordan, Dolla, Lorrha, Moneygall and Portroe. The area is expected to be comprised of 14 Sergeants and 18 Gardaí.
Two-time All-Ireland winner with Clare, Ollie Baker has been appointed Superintendent of this functional area. He briefed elected members of the Killaloe Municipal District on the changes at a meeting in Scariff on Friday. “This is local to me,” he assured the East Clare representatives. “The resources won’t fall into Nenagh, that won’t happen,” he added.
According to Supt Baker, officers like Inspector Michelle Moloney who joined him in Scariff “have spent considerable time ensuring members in Killaloe and Scariff stay here, their value is here, the value of a Scariff or a Killaloe Garda in North Tipperary holds no value. There will be times when they are called over with other events happening that is a once off thing”.
A commitment was given that a visible Garda presence would remain in East Clare. “Every morning there will be a patrol car dedicated to policing in this part of the area and every night, that without fail will be happening. There is a change and there will be challenges”. As a result, he admitted that there would be missteps along the way.
Supt Baker continued, “Coming into this new amalgamated area I’m quite pleased with the work that has been done, this area has stayed alive in a policing sense”. He added, “there will be changes and a lot of challenges but the biggest challenges will be a change of mindset”.
He told councillors, “ye haven’t lost anything from the Guard on the ground, the centres have changed and the old term district has become longer community function areas”. Supt Baker added, “My challenge is to ensure I have that service available for the locality, the plan won’t be changing, local policing here will not diminish in any respect”.
Cathaoirleach of the Killaloe Municipal District, Cllr Tony O’Brien (FF) spoke of his forty five years working with a semi-state company when listing to the concerns that emerge as to the actual benefit of these changes. He maintained there was 30 Gardaí based in the locality “a few years back”.
“Change is change, communities on the periphery always feel the most vulnerable,” commented Cllr Pat Hayes (FF). He expressed further worry that legislation passing through the Dáil could see the end of Joint Policing Committees. He said of his area of Killanena and Flagmount, “we’re on the periphery, thank God crime levels are low but we’ve had issues in the past with break-ins and all those issues. Change always brings worry, the resources might end up in the far end of Nenagh and leave nothing available for Killanena, Flagmount or Feakle”.
Confusion on what functional areas certain parishes fall into was also raised by Cllr Hayes who requested maps be issued to the councillors. “It doesn’t seem very logical where you might arrive to the far end of Feakle and someone else has to come from Ennis,” he said of the fact that Feakle village is under the Tulla district whereas the remainder of the parish falls into another functional area. “Prior to this the service was very limited in East Clare anyway, Tulla and Scariff had limited offices, up to now the services and personnel were challenged”.
Hayes added, “I’d rather keep our business in our county, I am concerned and hearing it from Gardaí themselves, I think we need to improve our services, I have a worry here going forward that we will be losing services”.
In response, Supt Baker acknowledged, “The concerns are there, my own background and experience in policing has all been community related, I haven’t specialised in areas of crime or traffic, everything in the 25 years I’ve been in An Garda Síochána has been on vthe alue of the community, I understand the values and they at a minimum need to know who the local Garda is”.
Doora native Baker continued, “I’m pragmatic enough to know you have to find a system that best works, everyone in their own house at night needs to have reassurance that Gardai are available”.
Efforts will be made to provide councillors with a map of the new system, he confirmed. “A boundary has to go to somewhere, the old county boundaries came into being fourteen or fifteen years ago, we’re now bound by model boundaries”.