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Thursday, 15th November 2018

Government’s response to escalating violence not good enough

Front Page

One of the cars that has been set alight in the recent spate of gangland violence in Drogheda.

“These criminals must be put behind bars for a long time. If we need to change the law and put tougher penalties on them, we must do that” - O’Dowd.

So, let’s do a recap of the last week or so in Drogheda.

We’ve had at least one person stabbed, another attacked with an axe and yet another kidnapped and tortured to within inches of his life. Several cars have been set on fire and another had a pipe bomb place in its exhaust.

People are living in fear of their lives, afraid to leave their homes and in some cases, leaving their homes altogether. Thankfully their have been no fatalities yet, but it can only be a matter of time.

Every decent person in Drogheda must agree that the drug peddling low-life thugs that are bringing misery and mayhem, death and destruction, to our town must be taken off the streets - as soon as.

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But this situation didn’t develop overnight. Fears were being expressed even before gang leader Owen Maguire was shot and very nearly killed at the Cement Road halting site in early July.

At this stage all of our political representatives have had their say on the matter and the consensus is that the local Garda force is woefully under resourced to tackle such a serious situation.

As Gerry Adams said in a Dail debate on the situation yesterday, the government’s response to the escalating criminal violence is “not good enough”.

During that debate local TDs again put it to Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan that there was a shortage of Gardaí in Drogheda.

Deputy Fergus O’Dowd said he welcomed the response of the Gardaí on the streets and the fact that all Garda leave has been cancelled in County Louth but he pointed out that there is a deficit in the number of police deployed in Drogheda.

“Drogheda is the same size as Dundalk but while Drogheda has 107 policemen, deployed Dundalk has 159” he said. “It is not acceptable there is this deficit in policing in Drogheda and it must be urgently addressed.”

Fianna Fail Deputy Declan Breathnach said that he had flagged the escalation of “thuggery and crime” in Drogheda as far back as last June.

“My concern was based on meeting people who were caught up in incredible fear and intimidation” he said. “They were sucked in, some relatively innocently, into the crossfire of these vicious criminals.”

Sinn Fein TD Gerry Adams said that the incidence of drug-related crime in both Drogheda and Dundalk had escalated to an “intolerable” level.

“The victims of these attacks are victims of unscrupulous and dangerous drug pushers who are targeting them for drug debts which are not theirs. In one particular case, one family had €11,000 demanded from it.

“An Garda Síochána deserves our fullest support” Adams said and asked the Minister to support the resourcing of a specialist drugs unit for Louth, which he said had been promised previously.

Minster Charlie Flanagan said that he understood the concerns of the people of Drogheda and their representatives. “This type of criminal behaviour will not be tolerated” he said.

“The Garda Commissioner is responsible for the distribution of Garda resources, including personnel among the various Garda divisions. I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter.

“However, I am advised that Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities to ensure the optimum use is made of these resources in Drogheda, as well as in other parts of Louth and beyond.

“On the specific incidents referred to by the Deputies, I am advised that An Garda Síochána is conducting full and detailed investigations into each case. As such it would be inappropriate for me to comment while these investigations are ongoing.

“However, I have been informed by An Garda Síochána that Gardaí have put in place a policing operation to prevent, detect and mitigate against any further escalation of violence.

“In addition to cancelling all Garda leave in the Louth division for the next two weeks, the operation will entail high-visibility patrols supplemented by personnel from the regional armed support unit, community policing units, district detective and drug units and divisional roads policing unit.” 

Welcoming the Minister's response Deputy Fergus O’Dowd said: “The fear must be in the bedroom of the criminal, not in that of the ordinary citizens who are having sleepless nights in some parts of Drogheda.

“These criminals must be put behind bars for a long time. If we need to change the law and put tougher penalties on them, we must do that.”

Minister Flanagan rounded out the debate by saying: “An Garda Síochána has overcome similar challenges in the past and will do so again.

"Gardaí in Drogheda have put in place a policing operation to prevent, detect and mitigate against any further escalation of violence in the area. The operation will entail a number of high-visibility patrols. I am sure Deputies from the area will join me in wishing them well in their endeavours.”

This article was written by Andy Spearman

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