Politicians under fire over no show

Liam Cosgrove

Reporter:

Liam Cosgrove

Cllr Gerry Warnock taking questions from the floor during last week's meeting. Photo: Michelle Ghee. www.gphotos.ie
Illegal money lending, lack of political representation and calls for tougher sentencing laws were just some of the issues to dominate a public meeting on crime and anti social behaviour last week.

Illegal money lending, lack of political representation and calls for tougher sentencing laws were just some of the issues to dominate a public meeting on crime and anti social behaviour last week.

Close to 100 people attended the open forum to discuss the issue of anti-social behaviour in Longford.

The attendance was smaller than the previous meeting on the issue in November but the speakers from the floor spoke as passionately as ever.

One of the chief concerns on the night was the absence of senior politicians and Garda representatives at the meeting.

Chaired by Cllr Gerry Warnock, one by one members of the public hit out at the decision by leading local figures to stay away.

“Our TDs, policemen, they are not treating this seriously,” said one irate speaker.

“I think they are just fobbing us off that we will just go away.

“I think if they don’t come to us, we should go to them.”

Apologies were read out from Labour TD Willie Penrose and a number of local councillors, including Cllrs Mae Sexton, Martin Mulleady and Mark Casey.

No reference was made to Fine Gael TDs James Bannon and Gabrielle McFadden attendance while Fianna Fail’s TD Robert Troy was said to be “running late”, according to Cllr Warnock.

Speaking on the night, Cllr Warnock acknowledged that some people might not agree with his course of action.

“It’s publicly known that a lot of people don’t like my approach,” Cllr Warnock told those watching on from the floor below.

“I believe in public participation and you have got to remember who gave us our mandate. It was you guys and I believe it behoves us to listen to what you guys have got to say.”

Just as he qualified those remarks by insisting a number of local representatives were also supportive of his anti-crime focus, once again the spotlight was directed on the non-attendance of Oireachtas members.

“Where are our TDs who will be knocking on our doors in two or three months looking for our votes?” said one observer, prompting another to shout: “One of them is at a wake.”

Besides the criticism aimed at stay away politicians, concerns were directed at burglary rates, present day sentencing laws and calls for Local Property Tax funding to be ringfenced for anti-crime purposes.

“There is crime but there’s just no punishment,” said one contributor.

“You can have as many police on the street as you want, but there’s no fear (of the consequences).”

Cllr Warnock vowed, for his part, to take on board those concerns and ensure his white paper on crime and anti-social behaviour would become the main working document for the council’s Joint Policing Committee (JPC) going forward.