Sinn Féin TD for Meath East, Darren O’Rourke, has called on Minister Helen McEntee and the government to address the unsafe staffing levels in Meath.
He told Meath Live, “Communities in Meath deserve to feel safe and protected but many feel let down by Fine Gael’s failures to invest in safe policing levels.
“Figures show that there are just 314 Gardaí in the Meath Division. Recent reports indicate that County Meath has just 142 gardaí for every 100,000 people or one frontline officer for every 703 people. This again confirms Meath’s position as the county with the lowest number of Gardaí per head of population. This is the case at a time when the local population in Meath is amongst the fastest growing in the state, so in real terms we are going backwards.
“Communities in Meath will be understandably concerned by Minister Helen McEntee’s and the government’s failure to deliver safe policing levels. They need to know that if a crime is committed, an appropriate and quick response will be issued.
“These latest figures come at a worrying time for Garda members and the general public. With an expanding population, Garda recruitment under this government has not kept pace with the growth in many areas.
“Figures remained stable for many years, leading to a per capita decrease, but now we are facing a perfect storm of lacklustre recruitment combined with a crisis in retention.
“This means the government is now scrambling to ensure recruitment keeps pace with retirements and resignations. Failure to do this means we don’t have enough Gardaí.
“Garda numbers are not the only tool to combat many of the issues facing Meath but we do need to ensure a consistent presence within communities to reassure people who are vulnerable that they will not continue to be targeted by criminals.
“In government, Sinn Féin would work urgently to get to grips with this issue and address the shortfall and increase Garda presence to ensure communities can feel safe and protected.
“This would include implementing the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing, so that as many Gardaí as possible remain on the frontline.
“We would also examine the reasons behind the retention crisis, establish a taskforce on the matter and remove unnecessary bottlenecks in the recruitment process.
“An immediate measure Minister McEntee could take is to publish updated regulations for the Garda Reserve. This would allow recruitment to the Reserve to resume immediately to support hard-pressed full time Gardaí.
“Fine Gael has held the Justice portfolio now for well over a decade, supported by Fianna Fáil for much of that time. Their complacency and stale thinking around Justice is clear for all to see. The Gardaí and communities in Meath are paying the price for Fine Gael’s poor leadership and failure to make policing the priority it deserves to be.
“A Sinn Féin government would prioritise investing in Gardaí, so that communities in Meath can feel safe and protected.”