Deputies Nash and O'Dowd.
The lack of a full time Garda station to police the densely populated East Meath area has been a source of great concern for local residents for years.
This anxiety was further heightened over the past few weeks however after outbreaks of violence in the seaside towns of Bettystown and Laytown and residents staged a protest on Bettystown beach earlier this month.
Yesterday two local TDs, Labour’s Ged Nash and Fergus O’Dowd of Fine Gael, raised the issue in Dáil Eireann
Deputy O’Dowd pointed out that Laytown Garda station was built 20 years ago to meet the needs of a population one quarter the size of the current population.
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“The one thing all electoral areas in County Meath such as Trim, Kells, Ashbourne, Navan and Ratoath have in common is they all have a full-time, 24-7 Garda station and a Garda superintendent” he pointed out.
“East Meath, including Laytown and Bettystown, has a population of 34,000 and that will increase by approximately 10,000 in the coming years but it does not have those services and it needs them urgently.”
Deputy Ged Nash said that he and Tania O’Neill, whose son had been brutally attacked by a gang of youths on the dunes, had met with Garda management to discuss the policing needs of East Meath.
“Tania spoke for all local parents and citizens when she called for a full time station for Laytown” he said. “I repeated that call in the Dáil last night.
The Laytown-Bettystown electoral district is the second most populous in Meath, and unlike Navan, Kells, Ashbourne and Trim it does not have a full time station and the area has not had one since 2008 when the Superintendent’s position was removed and the area started to be administered from Ashbourne.
East Meath and South Drogheda is one of the fastest growing areas of the country with a higher than average proportion of younger people.
Services must be provided where the people are and where they live now and not based on a historical picture of Co. Meath.
We need a full time station and the Garda divisional boundaries must be changed to allow East Meath to be supported by Drogheda Garda.”
The Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Deputy Malcolm Noonan of the Green Party, told the two deputies that the Minister for Justice has no role in these independent functions, that it is a matter for the Garda Commissioner.
“Works in respect of Garda accommodation are progressed by the Garda authorities working in close co-operation with the OPW. Again, the Minister for Justice has no direct role in these matters” he said.
He did say however that Garda management keeps the distribution of all resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities to ensure their optimum use.
“There has been a significant increase in Garda resources in Meath in recent years. As of the end of May 2021, a total of 322 Garda members, in addition to 43 Garda staff, were assigned to the Meath division. These figures represent increases of 16% and 65%, respectively, since December 2015.”
Deputy Noonan said that an inspector had been appointed to Laytown in January of this year, indicating the commitment of An Garda Síochána to the area.
“I am advised that local Garda management has taken steps to improve Garda coverage in the area. These steps include increased frequency of patrols in affected areas as well as regular support from the divisional operational support unit for the area.
“The Meath division is one of four divisions earmarked by the Commissioner for the introduction of the new Garda operating model in the next year. The new operating model is envisaged to deliver improvements to structures, processes, services and governance, and there will be an increase in the number of front-line Gardaí.
You can watch the proceedings here:
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