Meath West Sinn Féin TD, Johnny Guirke, held a public meeting on the 30th of April, with Sinn Féin Justice and Equality spokesperson, Martin Kenny and Navan Sinn Féin activist, Sinead Burke on policing in Navan, County Meath and nationally.
He praised the recent Gardaí action that saw them seize €1 million worth of drugs across Meath on the 29th of April. Guirke said unfortunately there are “drugs all over the county” and that there are only 331 guards and 43 garda staff in Meath, which is the lowest in the country.
Guirke congratulated Minister Helen McEntee on the birth of her baby boy and claimed that it was ideal that the Justice Minister is from Meath and that she can possibly solve these issues. There are only 7 community police in Navan, including the Sergeant, and he claimed that community policing should be the heart of policing in Ireland that that is something that needs to be addressed.
HeGuirke said he didn’t want to give out to all youths and wished they would stay involved in sports like GAA or soccer, but he is disappointed that some are getting involved in drugs. He stated that if one guard could keep one teen away from crime, then “that would be a garda of great value”. Reiterating his point that there is a need for more Gardaí in Meath.
Deputy Kenny warned that there is not only a “pandemic of covid”, there is also a “pandemic of drugs”. He went onto say that there are two elements of crime: 1) the very organised drug crime (which can be violent) and 2) anti-Social behaviour or what he calls “acting the mick”. He claimed the “key thing that is needed is a community guard that knows everyone and that people have a good relationship with” because then people will feel that the Gardaí are on their side and they will keep out of trouble. Unfortunately, many community guards have disappeared.
Kenny stated that there is a need for a 10-15% increase in Garda numbers. he claimed that it “costs a lot more to send a young person to Mountjoy for a year, compared to employing more Gardaí”. He said if Sinn Féin were in government, their priorities will be different and that one of their priorities is “making sure communities are safe”.
In Navan, there have been many complaints about the Navan Garda Station, that it is “too old” and “not fit for purpose”. Guirke said that he met with Minister McEntee and hopefully we will see some movement on that. He made suggestions that there might be a new greenfield site. He also brought up the issue of a Garda substation for the Johnstown area, but unfortunately that is “not something that seems to be on Helen’s radar” Guirke claimed.
Kenny said that most rural substations are closed across the country and that Gardaí need to be more flexible and moving around, rather than being stuck at their desks. He also brought up the issue that some stations do not have broadband and that is something that needs to change. He criticised the lack of resources in place for Gardaí to do their jobs efficiently.
Sinead Burke claimed that “if you put money into preventative measures, you save money”. She also brought up the campaign she was involved in with getting more community cameras, especially in the Johnstown area. Guirke said that he got onto Meath County Council about this issue and “they will be installed by the end of the year” and that Sinead “deserves a lot of credit for that”.
Finishing up, Kenny claimed that the Gardaí are “a service, rather than a force”. Guirke stated that Garda numbers need to be upped and said that there are only 3 guards in Oldcastle and 2 in Athboy, but they are regularly called into Kells to deal with crime. He hammered the point that Meath is one of the most underfunded counties in Ireland and that it is “not right and unfair” and this is something he will continue to challenge the government about.