Fears are mounting that growing numbers of gardai could be left sitting in out of town Garda Stations without any mode of transport after a patrol car was taken from a north Longford town and transferred to Co Roscommon.
Local business owners and politicians in Drumlish have reacted with fury to revelations Garda bosses decided last Friday to relocate the town’s only unmarked squad car to Boyle for operational reasons.
Officially, gardai are refusing to discuss the controversy with both the Garda Press Office and the region’s divisional headquarters in Co Roscommon both declining to comment.
On Monday, a press spokesperson said the allocation of resources was an “operational matter” for both counties’ most senior officer.
Similarly, attempts by the Leader to contact divisional chief superintendent Padraig Rattigan likewise proved unsuccessful.
A spokewoman for the Roscommon based Garda chief said Chief Supt Rattigan was “not saying” anything on the issue when contacted by this newspaper on Monday morning.
Unofficially however, Garda sources confirmed a squad car was withdrawn from Drumlish and moved to Boyle late last week.
In a move to address the situation, the Leader has learned a substitute vehicle has since been assigned to the village from the division’s headquarters in Granard.
Despite the measure, it’s believed the action may be little more than a temporary exercise, awakening unease over the ability of frontline gardai to deal with everyday demands.
“There is no detective in Granard at all,” said a well-placed source. “They have never been replaced. We (gardai) still have a detective car here and that has gone out to facilitate them (in Drumlish area). But what that means is we now have a car less in the district, down to four from the five we used to have and that will put on a whole lot more pressure.”
Under present guidelines, when a patrol car reaches 300,000km it is taken off the road. Whether mileage or government enforced cutbacks played a factor in the decision remains unclear.
Whatever the reason, the episode is expected to renew talk of further cutbacks and possible station closures as Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan prepares to hand over a draft policing plan for 2013 to Minister for Justice Alan Shatter over the coming weeks.
“If a patrol car broke down or went for a service, we could use the other one (patrol car), but that option has now been taken away,” added the source.
For those living within the wider Drumlish area, the controversy has been met with much derision.
Joe Farrell, who runs local establishments ‘The Bent Elbow’ and ‘The Tavern’ said the announcement couldn’t have come at a worse time, particularly as two break-ins had only been reported the previous week.
“Those (burglaries) happened in the town last week, so it’s serious,” he said.
Equally, locally elected representative, Cllr Martin Mulleady said residents and homeowners had been left aghast at the affair.
“It’s an absolute scandal,” he angrily stated. “They (gardai) are depending on Granard to free up a car? It’s just not on. The people out here are not going to accept it. There are 900 people living in Drumlish village and the whole area, up as far as Moyne and over to Ballinalee you are talking around 2,500 people and you mean to tell me there isn’t a car to go around in? It’s a scandal, that’s what it is.”