There has been widespread condemnation of the news announced last week by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter that five Garda stations in Leitrim will be among 100 that will close nationally next year.
Among those that will close next year are nine in the Sligo/Leitrim district including the stations in Dromahair, Glenfarne, Cloone, Keshcarrigan and Dromod while in neighbouring counties Bawnboy, Cliffoney, Ballyfarnon and Ballinalee are to be closed.
Gardai stationed in Dromahair and Glenfarne will be transferred to Manorhamilton, Gardai in Keshcarrigan and Dromod will be transferred to Carrick-on-Shannon while Gardai currently stationed in Cloone will move to Carrigallen.
While Minister Shatter and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan have said the closures will result in more effective policing the announcement has been heavily criticised with Deputy Michael Colreavy referring to the closures as, “A savage attack on rural Ireland.”
Speaking on the issue Deputy Colreavy said, “The government are attempting to spin this reform of policing structures when we all know that is the austerity agenda at work here under the mask of ‘reform’.
“The north west has traditionally been ignored when it comes to the provision of services. This is yet another example of government austerity hitting the people of Sligo and Leitrim.
“Many elderly people will feel vulnerable after the closure of these Garda stations, especially those living alone or in isolated areas. As the economic crisis hit, crime levels have risen. This is a regressive step by the government and will only lead to an atmosphere of fear and isolation.
“Rural communities should not have to suffer even more because of the fiscal ineptitude of the government,” he said.
The decision has also been condemned by the Garda Representative Association (GRA) which represents 11,500 rank and file Gardai who described the closures as a “sledge hammer approach.”
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) have also hit out at the closures.
The decision has also strongly criticised by Senator Paschal Mooney who said, “This is a further blow to local communities across Co. Leitrim who are trying to cope with school and post office closures, reduction in transport services and lack of investment in jobs.”
The Minister and the Garda Commissioner seem intent on extending what is called the “response model” of policing which is more suited to urban areas than rural counties like Leitrim.
“This model of policing is deeply flawed as it removes the conflict of community policing which has served this State so well since its foundation and resulting in low crime rates especially in rural areas” stated Senator Mooney.
Cllr Caillian Ellis has also hit out at the closures saying, “This is another blow for rural Ireland. Everybody knew their local Garda and that security is being taken away from people at a very fast rate.”
Cllr Ellis added, “The text alert scheme has been a great success and it has surely helped to cut down on crime but I wouldn’t like to see the Commissioner use the success of the text alert as an excuse for further closures.”