PEOPLE in Rathkeale had a “sense of over-policing” during the Christmas period.
At last Thursday’s meeting of the Joint Policing Subcommittee for Adare-Rathkeale District, Fine Gael councillor Adam Teskey told Superintendent John Deasy of Newcastle West Garda District that one gripe from locals was that Gardaí were directing resources at motoring offences rather than being out on the beat.
He also took offence at the national media for their coverage of Rathkeale in the run-up to Christmas.
“Headlines like ‘Garda Ring of Steel’ gave the impression that World War II was taking place in Rathkeale. The message that we want to send out is that we are open for business. We cater for 3,000 extra people over the festive period and we are able to deal with them,” Cllr Teskey claimed.
Fianna Fáil councillor Kevin Sheahan said that the complaint from the local community was always that there was not enough police present in the West Limerick town at Christmas.
“Now that we have it, it will take a while to get used to it. But that’s what we want without the inconvenience of people being stopped and breathalysed a few times. We have to be considerate of people at all times,” said Cllr Sheahan – himself, a former member of An Garda Síochána.
The Askeaton man went on to point out that while much of the aggressive behaviour was curtailed over Christmas in Rathkeale, littering was the biggest issue.
“I don’t think any town can be over-policed,” Cllr Teskey interjected.
Fine Gael councillor Stephen Keary commended Gardaí for the “excellent programme of policing” put in place during December.
“It was second to none and passed by without major incident,” he told Supt Deasy.
“I have no issue with the intensity of policing over the last number of years but I am extremely disappointed Tusla didn’t engage with us.”
According to Cllr Keary, children aged between 7 and 14, were a major issue for traffic safety in the town.
“Ordinary people from the hinterland stayed away from the town for fear of knocking down a child. My own wife wouldn’t shop in the town for the six-week period for that very reason,” he added.
Independent councillor Emmett O’Brien felt the Christmas policing programme for Rathkeale was “fantastic”. He also said he would like to see more Gardaí around Shannon Estuary towns where there is a serious concern over recreational drug use.
He said that cocaine was a particular issue.
“There is no substitute for Gardaí. We can talk about CCTV, but this is just an aid. It is no substitute for Gardaí on the beat. I would love to see more guards around the Shannon Estuary towns where there is significant drug use. A strong approach needs to be taken to send out the right signal to dirty drug dealers,” Cllr O’Brien declared.
Independent councillor Richard O’Donoghue called for more policing in rural areas. He also raised concerns about the rising drug problem in County Limerick.
“We need a team effort from the top down. We need more visibility, more checkpoints. I have four sons myself and what I am hearing is scary. As a parent, this is a worry and I fully support anything we can do to crack down on drugs,” Cllr O’Donoghue commented.
Superintendent Deasy told council members that the strategy taken by Gardaí in Rathkeale over Christmas was for a “high visibility presence”, which incorporated “proactive” beat and mobile patrols.
Between December 5 and January 6, there were 111 Garda checkpoints in and around Rathkeale. Three people were arrested for drink driving and another three for drug driving at these checkpoints. Fifteen cars were also seized for offences including driving without tax or insurance and causing obstruction. There was also one serious assault in the town on Christmas night.
Overall, Supt Deasy said the policing programme put in place proved “very effective”.