*Pat Halpin addressing the community forum in Newmarket-on-Fergus. Photograph: Joe Buckley
An undercover Garda operation is ongoing in Newmarket-on-Fergus, Sixmilebridge and Cratloe while the policing organisation is unaware of claims that youths have been dropping rocks onto the M18 approaching the Carrigoran exit.
Frustration was voiced at the absence of a visible Garda presence in Newmarket-on-Fergus by locals who attended a community forum on Monday. According to Colin Martin, “guards are badly needed in the village” while Aisling Halpin added, “I was at a meeting last year and was told there are fifty guards in the Shannon Municipal District. Where are they? There seems to be nothing happening”.
Inspector Paul Slattery who is a recent addition to Shannon Garda Station responded, “There are over fifty Gardaí attached to Shannon and outlying stations, they are mostly concentrated in the Shannon area but we do have stations in Sixmilebridge and Newmarket-on-Fergus. I know there are two members attached to Newmarket-on-Fergus Garda Station, they are on alternate shifts so we maximise our presence here. The whole idea behind Garda presence here is not to have someone sitting in the station waiting for someone to call, they are more effective when out on the street patrolling around the catchment area”.
He added, “There are Gardaí present in Newmarket-on-Fergus, Sixmilebridge, Cratloe and Shannon that you will not see, that is an ongoing operation that I’m not going to discuss here, you will not see, they are here, they are working and they are effective”.
A speaker from the floor asked what the Gardaí have done about reports of rocks being thrown from a fly-over onto the M18 to which Insp Slattery said they had “no knowledge” of such incidents taking place. Two attendees confirmed their car had been hit as a result of such actions on the M18.
Junior Minister Pat Breen (FG) urged the public to report criminal activity to the Gardaí and said Commissioner Drew Harris is keen to increase the amount of officers on the streets. Cllr Cathal Crowe (FF) stressed, “there is a lot of under-reporting in Clare. There are incidents happening every night that are not being reported. The Garda Commissioner and Chief Superintendent refer to crime stats when they are assigning resources”.
Chair of the Joint Policing Committee, Cllr John Crowe (FG) told the forum he has highlighted on several occasions the fact that only five Gardaí are serving Newmarket-on-Fergus, Sixmilebridge and Quin “which includes two of the biggest growth areas in the county”. He added, “It is very important to have a strong Garda presence”.
Michelle Brassil urged the Gardaí to start using the Newmarket community “for Garda intelligence”. “As a mother, our children need to know who the Gardaí are, I couldn’t say who the two Gardaí are, it is not good enough”. Ray Grogan Jnr queried if 50 Gardaí serving the Municipal District was enough and what could the community do to try bring in more Garda resources and he was encouraged to contact his local representatives.
As he described the meeting as “very positive”, Senator Martin Conway (FG) revealed, “I wasn’t officially invited, sometimes the Senator can be forgotten about but I couldn’t think of any other place I would rather be tonight”. As the party’s Justice Spokesperson in the Seanad, he said he was “blue in the face from putting forward the case for community Gardaí”.
Local councillor, Pat McMahon (FF) said he had been making the case “for twenty years to get an extra Garda presence in Newmarket-on-Fergus”. He outlined that now retired Chief Superintendent John Kerin had looked for more Gardaí on “a consistent basis” but was also unsuccessful. “When I was growing up there was five Gardaí here, now we have two and yet the population has doubled”.