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Galway’s new Chief Superintendent vows to target drugs gangs

Galway’s newly-appointed highest-ranking Garda has vowed to go after organised criminal gangs involved in drug dealing locally.

Garda Chief Superintendent Gerard Roche said that he would focus on community policing and crime, in particular tackling organised crime and drug dealers, as head of the Galway Garda Division.

Introducing himself to the County Galway Joint Policing Committee (JPC) annual public meeting held in Claregalway Hotel on Monday, the Abbey/Duniry native said he has served in Dublin, Limerick, Sligo and Kildare.

He was posted to Galway in 1996, and served in three different ranks of An Garda Síochána, and was stationed in Clifden, Ballinasloe and Loughrea. He spent eleven years as a detective, and he established the first drugs unit in Galway in 1999.

This week he vowed to “tackle organised crime, especially drugs”, during his tenure as Chief Superintendent.

He said that simple possession of drugs was a ‘personal choice’. And while Gardaí would continue to prosecute people caught with drugs for personal use, the focus and resources would be on targeted at drug dealers and organised crime gangs involved in drug trafficking.

Senior Data Analyst Olivia Maher, on behalf of Chief Supt Roche, explained there had been 31 detections of drugs for sale or supply in Galway City and County in the first ten months of this year. That’s down 30% on last year, and down 16% compared with 2019, pre-Covid.

There were 92 incidents of simple possession up to the end of October, which was up 42% year-on-year, but a 28% reduction compared with 2019.

Almost €1.5 million worth of drugs were seized in the raids, including €1.2m worth of cannabis with the bulk of it related to a large seizure.

Galway County Councillor from Ardrahan PJ Murphy (FG) disagreed with focusing on dealers. He said that people who use drugs should be targeted too because without them there would be no market for drug dealers to supply.

Chief Supt Roche paid tribute to his predecessor, Chief Supt Tom Curley who officially retired on Monday night at midnight.

He said he would continue and build on the work that Mr Curley had achieved in the Division.

After years serving in other counties, Chief Supt Roche declared that he was ‘back home’ and he was ‘not going anywhere’.

In his opening address to the public meeting, Chief Supt Roche addressed concerns of public representatives around police numbers in Connemara.

He said that An Cheathrú Rua now had a new sergeant and four Gardaí. Another Garda has been allocated to Moycullen, bringing its allocation to two, and Oughterard has four, he said.

Several public representatives questioned the effectiveness of the new Garda policing model introduced in Galway, and in particular the impact of Connemara’s Superintendent being based in Oranmore.

Gort-based Garda Inspector Georgina Lohan gave a presentation to the meeting explaining the rationale behind the reorganisation, which included more front-line Gardaí and more accountability.

She said civilianisation has resulted in 36 additional Gardaí being reassigned to front-line duties, and the Galway Division’s total Garda strength has increased by 33 in the past ten years.

The total strength of the Galway Division was 623 in 47 stations, plus about 100 support staff.

Chief Supt Roche warned, however, that between 10% and 12% of Garda staff could be on long-term leave because they have been seriously injured while working. Long-term could be four or five years, he said.

Numbers were further depleted by Covid-19 sickness, maternity and other leave and holidays, he said.

He said that the low level of Garda recruits coming out of Templemore meant that ‘holding what we have’ in terms of Garda strength was his focus – he would not be sanctioning transfers out of the county.

Chief Supt Roche added that a review of the new policing model and its impact on Connemara and the entire division would be held within three to six months.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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