A local councillor has questioned the approach by government towards the downgrading of local services, in particular the rural garda stations, where he said there was a real fear among the communities about the level of policing. He said the government needs to set out its policy and view on where it sees rural Ireland in ten years’ time.
Cllr Denis Glennon, speaking during a discussion at a Longford County Council meeting about closing rural garda stations, said with the closure of many of the rural services, like banks, schools, post offices, health services and now garda stations, there should be more consideration given to the people living in these communities.
“They’re saying this is being done for operational reasons and it’s modern practice in other places, but the locals don’t believe that; the people on the ground don’t believe that,” said Cllr Glennon.
He said there’s a danger, in years to come, of people in a community not knowing their ‘local garda’.
“It has to be proven yet that this is more effective and I think that there’s a big flaw in that they’ve done nothing to educate the local population and saying, ‘okay we’re taking this, but here’s what we’re giving you, here are the improvements, here’s your sense of security’.
“We’ve had community alert and text alert groups set up and I’m involved in one of them. I said to the garda, ‘you need to give feedback to the local population’. We would have had text alerts sent out, but what’s the impact of them? I don’t know.
“There’s a real failure at that end of it to go back to the community and say that this is going to be more effective.
“I would be afraid, ultimately, if this kept going that you’d be down to vigilantism to try and protect your community and that’s the last thing that anybody would need.”
The former school principal said there needs to be a plan set out for the future of rural communities.
“I don’t think that anyone is presenting an image of what rural life will be like in the next ten years. Take it away and centralise more and more, but who’s engaging with the rural communities and saying ‘here’s how it could be better’. That’s not being done and I think that’s the big flaw.
“Until they had that programme in place, they shouldn’t be closing the barracks in Ballinalee until they had convinced the people of the locality that it is better.
“To say other countries are doing it, that’s never an argument. Other countries did things in education and we followed too without even thinking and it didn’t prove better.”
He said the various political parties and agencies should come together and draw up a plan for rural life.
Meanwhile, a public meeting will take place in Thomas Ashe Hall, Ballinalee on Monday January 21 to discuss the impending closure of Ballinalee Garda Station. Local Superintendent Ian Lackey will be in attendance.