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Garda Commissioner is set for a grilling at County Galway meeting

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris will come under severe pressure to allocate more resources to rural Garda stations in the county during a visit to Galway next month.

The arrival of the country’s highest-ranking Garda to the County Galway Joint Policing Committee (JPC) in September coincides with the roll-out of a controversial new policing plan for Galway – a plan that has already been savaged by local politicians.

Commissioner Harris can expect a backlash from Councillors on the JPC who will demand more Gardaí are allocated to the Galway Division before the reorganisation of the Force is implemented.

“May he not be coming to give us explanations for a policy that isn’t acceptable,” fumed County Councillor Shelley Herterich Quinn (FF).

Describing the visit to County Hall as a “PR (public relations) thing” for Drew Harris, Cllr Herterich Quinn insisted that JPC members did not want him coming to Galway “to be ‘mansplaining’ this policy”.

“That is not what we want. We want more boots on the ground,” said the County Galway JPC member.

Under the new changes to come into effect by September, there will be three ‘functional areas’ within Galway.

These new ‘Community Engagement Areas’ will be headed by a Superintendent; one in Galway City, one in Galway County East and one in Galway County West.

The Superintendent for County West will be based in Oranmore Garda Station, and will be responsible for all of Connemara, which up to now was led from Salthill.

This element of the reorganisation has caused disquiet among local politicians and within the Garda organisation.

Cllr Herterich Quinn said it was wrong.

“The fact that Oranmore Garda Station will be responsible for Connemara is not sensible policing. It is very irresponsible policing and is putting undue stress on existing Garda members, it’s diluting their power and what they can do in our areas,” she said this week.

She has written to JPC members to highlight how Galway needs additional Gardaí.

Cllr Herterich Quinn listed a number of recent crimes which she claimed has caused concern in the Athenry/Oranmore area she represents, including: petrol bombs thrown at a home in Ballydavid; a couple attacked in their bed in Athenry; open drug dealing on the streets of towns and villages; and anti-social and criminal behaviour.

“In Athenry, we’re supposed to have five Gardaí in the station. We have one on a good day. We’ve gone from five to one, or none some days, and that’s replicated all over the county. It’s not reasonable for Drew Harris to come to us in September and explain to us this policy.

“I know a lot of Gardaí are working night and day and doing their absolute best but we don’t have enough of them. I just don’t want Drew Harris to be coming here and thinking he’s going to be getting off easy by explaining the policy to us. I want my colleagues to hold him to account and justify it. I don’t know how he can justify having fewer Gardaí.

“Oranmore is as stretched as every other station so I don’t know how he can justify stretching the resources of Gardaí locally out as far as Connemara. It’s a retrograde step and is retarding policing in the county,” said Cllr Herterich Quinn.

Galway Garda Chief Superintendent Tom Curley is on record as saying that the sweeping changes to the structure of An Garda Síochána in Galway will be positive. But he conceded that in order for the reorganisation to work, then Galway needs an additional 55 to 60 Gardaí on the ground in communities, including in Connemara and in city areas like Knocknacarra.

Chief Supt Curley said that the ‘Community Engagement Areas’ was the final piece of the jigsaw of reorganisation as part of a modernisation pilot programme that was started four years ago.

Cllr Herterich Quinn demanded more Gardaí for Galway.

“Criminal elements are aware of the lack of boots on the ground. This new policing model that they intend to roll out is just exacerbating that,” she added.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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