17/04/2012 - 16:55:04
Grassroots garda officers have unleashed a scathing attack on Justice Minister Alan Shatter, accusing him of being soft on crime.
In a broadside on Mr Shatter’s record, the Garda Representative Association (GRA) said he had failed to make any significant impact in more than a year in office.
Directly addressing the minister at its annual conference, GRA president Damien McCarthy said rank and file gardaí felt betrayed and angered by Mr Shatter’s shortcomings.
“So far, you have been soft on crime, soft on the causes of crime, and soft on the proceeds of crime,” he said.
Mr McCarthy, out-going leader of the organisation, which represents more than 11,000 officers, also accused Mr Shatter of overseeing the force’s withdrawal from the heart of the community.
“I conclude that your appointment has so far failed to have any significant impact on policing, you have achieved no more than your predecessors,” he said.
Pointing to the killings of Garda Gary McLoughlin and Garda Robbie McCallion in separate road incidents in Co Donegal, Mr McCarthy said no action had been taken to reduce the threat to lives of frontline officers.
“How long will you continue to gamble with the safety of gardaí, and society, before you rectify this problem?” he asked, at the two-day gathering in Athlone, Co Westmeath.
Mr McCarthy also criticised what he branded the revolving door of the justice system, which allowed criminals to walk free before completing sentences.
“In many cases we see lenient sentences reduced because of prison overcrowding, even when the lives of gardaí have been cut short,” he said.
“Our members are rightly angered and feel betrayed by your shortcomings. We need a minister who is tough on crime.”
The GRA president said the Fine Gael/Labour coalition had failed to establish itself as the government of law and order.
Turning again to Mr Shatter personally, he recalled remarks from the Justice Minister while in opposition, warning about “lawless badlands” because of a lack of new garda recruits.
“Yet now, you are prepared to abandon areas of the country to become lawless badlands by closing down garda stations,” he added.
Mr McCarthy rejected claims that improved communications, technology and transport safely allowed for the closures.
“Let me tell you minister – if a house is being burgled, the gardaí cannot teleport to your assistance; the gardaí cannot police from a remote location by satellite; criminals cannot be apprehended by Skype and we can’t email armed response,” he said.
Mr McCarthy said garda station closures had not been properly thought out.
“Is this how you want to be remembered?” he asked. “As the minister who encouraged the dismantling of garda stations and the creator of lawless badlands?”
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