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Ó Murchú speaks of ‘grave concerns’ over Garda operating model

Ruairi O Murchu
Sinn Féin TD Ruairi O Murchu photographed in Dunleer. Photo Credit: Kathy Gilroy-Barry.

Ruairí Ó Murchu TD says he has “grave concerns” over the future of policing in Louth in regards to plans to merge the Louth Garda Division with neighbouring the neighbouring Cavan Monaghan Division as part of a major restructuring within An Garda Siochana.

The Sinn Féin Deputy was present at the The Grove in Dunleer on Friday afternoon and he posed a number of questions and concerns towards Commissioner Drew Harris , expressing that he fears that Garda forces in towns like Dundalk will lose the the autonomy to plan and make decisions in the best interests of their district.

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Commissioner Harris first announced his restructuring plan in August 2019 and an initial rollout of five new larger divisions will first be implemented. The next tranche of changes to the Operating Model – including Louth, Cavan, Monaghan – could be in place by the end of 2020.

“I have grave concerns regarding the proposed restructuring announced by Drew Harris in August 2019. I fear this will lead to the loss of localised decision making,” Ó Murchu said.  “My fear is that large towns like Dundalk, could lose the necessary local planning and decision making.

Commissioner Harris told the meeting that the new entire division will have five superintendents – currently there are eight Superintendents across the two divisions – and an increased number of Inspectors. Harris said that it was up to the Chief Superintendent to decide where the five Superintendent would be stationed.

“We need to ensure that a local inspector with responsibility for Dundalk is not curtailed by remote instruction from a Superintendent who has responsibility for a much wider area,” Ó Murchu continued.

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“The very specific threats and challenges faced by Gardaí in Louth require a bespoke response from members of the Gardaí on the ground in Louth on a daily basis. Towns like Dundalk simply cannot be policed remotely.

The TD, who was joined at the meeting by Dáil Éireann and party colleague Imelda Munster, also said that any reduction in operational or organisational capacity in Louth would be an “music to the drug pushers ears.”

“We have seen the disregard which these gangs have both for human life and for the gardaí. It is obvious that any reduction in organisational capacity from Louth would be music to the drug pushers ears.

“We have seen some really good policing operations in Louth, and I commend the Gardaí involved.  However inadequate resources continue to be an issue. While personnel has increased in Drogheda, the Garda Commissioner needs to ensure that other areas, like Dundalk, can maintain full service at all times particularly when Garda annual leave is taken into account.

The Deputy also submitted written queries to the Commission, for which he is still waiting on a response. These queries included asking for a breakdown of all Garda personnel in Louth; their rank and the unit to which they are assigned and further information on the impact which the lack of ancillary addiction and mental health services is having on the Gardaí’s ability to police.

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This is not the first time Deputy Murchú has spoken strongly on the subject of Garda resources in Louth. Upon Commissioner Harris’ announcement of the new Operating Model last August, he said, “We cannot permit a scenario in which Louth Garda services are coordinated from afar.

“An ‘arm’s length’ approach will not work for local policing.  I work with victims of intimidation and crime every day in Dundalk, people in these communities need a comprehensive police service available to them.

“The Brexit crisis means that it is an absolute necessity for the Border area to retain its full complement of Garda resources.”

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