*A flock of ducks walking past patrol cars in Ennis Garda Station.
ENNIS COUNCILLORS have once again clashed on calls to establish a sub-committee of the Clare Joint Policing Committee (JPC) to focus specifically on the county town.
Citing “increased anti-social and criminal activity” across the Ennis Municipal District, Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) asked for a Clare JPC sub-committee to be established to focus solely on issues in the MD.
He outlined, “The loss of the successful Ennis JPC in 2014 which had operated effectively and efficiently since 2009 has I believe been detrimental to crime prevention and public safety in Ennis Town Centre, suburbs and wider municipal district. The former Ennis JPC enabled focused positive collaboration, connection and support of local Ennis businesses and residents with and of the Gardaí”.
Superintendent John Ryan who has responsibility for the Clare community functional area recently briefed a meeting of the Ennis MD alongside Sergeant Catriona Houlihan. He said he was “supportive” of the stance of Cllr Flynn. “We held local sub-JPCs as opposed to the big JPC, there was a lot more local interaction and able to feed back to myself and Catriona, it is important those channels are there, I will respond to the issues if they are brought to my attention”.
Opposition to a sub-committee was voiced by Cllr Mary Howard (FG), “I don’t see the need for another JPC, it would take four or five Gardaí off the streets only to be held up at meetings”.
Describing it as “a resources game”, Cllr Paul Murphy (FG) felt issues could be managed better than via another committee. “It goes back to numbers, we’d love to see more foot patrols, management have to deal with the hand they are dealt with, I’ve no doubt in John’s capability, when I’ve issues that pop up I tend to phone directly and it works for me, I’ve also found the JPC to be a good forum”.
Following on from this, Cllr Flynn asked if Ennis MD agreed to the creation of a sub-committee of the JPC for twelve months would the Gardaí be in favour.
Supt Ryan responded, “Most people have my mobile number, what Paul does works quite well, he contacts me and I send the message down the line, I agree totally with what Cllr Howard says, by me and Catriona being here we can’t be on the streets so I’ve to catch up on my work which goes into the late hours of the night, I have no issue with an informal meeting which works better, we can meet up once every six months and maybe in the Garda station so all members can hear the public’s concerns, we work for the people of Ennis and the county to provide a service. If you want to meet up quarterly or twice a year I will be there or someone will be there on my behalf”.
Flynn’s motion was discussed again later in the meeting. He prosed meeting with Gardaí twice yearly. He recalled that a previous motion on the ‘See Something Say Something’ initiative as trialled in Tralee in 2018 “went nowhere” after it was passed by the Ennis MD, “the JPC didn’t seem to push it”.
Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF) admitted she had “an issue with setting in stone quarterly or twice yearly meetings because their time is so important”.
Clarity was then issued by Cllr Flynn that he was looking for an agreement on “formal structure” of meetings with An Garda Síochána representatives and the Ennis MD.
Responding to this, Cllr Howard stressed that Supt Ryan was “very clear that their time is important, we all have access to anybody else in the station. Because they are down 30 Gardaí in the District, I have an issue with another talking shop”. She pointed out that Cllr Ann Norton (IND) offered to rescind her place on the Clare JPC to allow Cllr Flynn replace her.
Currently on the Clare JPC “four members are representing this MD yet the motion on See Something Say Something didn’t go anywhere,” Cllr Flynn replied. “I understood that he was willing for us to go meet him, if that is the case I withdraw, if it not I leave it on the agenda,” he added.
Mayor of the Ennis MD, Cllr Pat Daly (FF) said Supt Ryan accepted an invitation from him to address their February meeting.
Senior executive officer of the Ennis MD, Leonore O’Neill clarified, “The Superintendent is happy to have formal meetings. The question is the format and whether or not ye want to have them”.
She advised that the organisation of a sub-committee with the setting of agendas and scheduling of meetings “would need to be managed outside without the support of JPC structures. The Superintendent did outline he was satisfied to meet with you on that basis”.
“More communication is important,” Cllr Tom O’Callaghan (FF) maintained. He said Supt Ryan’s agreement to return in February was positive. He took umbrage with Cllr Howard’s use of the word “talking shops” and stated, “these are very important issues, they have a clear problem with resources, the issue is not about they are doing right now, it is about more resources”.
Agreement on whether all Ennis MD councillors would meet Supt Ryan in Ennis Garda Station as a collective was then sought by Cllr Flynn. He said it was “an awful pity” the Director of Services missed the comments from Supt Ryan that ‘lack of access’ to O’Connell Street was “an issue” for them on occasion.
Offering her view, Cllr Norton noted that the discussion with Gardaí had been held, “they’ve been open to communication which they always have been, anyone that needs to resolve an issue they’ve been open to issues in the Ennis MD. The option is there to go to the station if we need to, the most important thing is we don’t have resources coming into Clare”.
Cllr Flynn added, “It is important for people to understand, this is a more strategic support structure to work with An Garda Síochána and not just deal with one incident”.