THERE was some hysteria in Shannon last week, after posts appeared on Facebook about men trying to lure children into a white van. However, following an investigation, gardaí say there was no risk of child abuse, while they have urged people to come to them when they have concerns.
Sergeant Seamus Mulligan said that whenever there is suspicious activity, people need to contact gardaí, rather than getting onto social media. “They might want to vent on social media but they should also contact the gardaí.”
He said that the van that was the subject of the social media posts in Shannon was subsequently met by gardaí in Limerick, who became satisfied that there had been no risk to children. The van was taken in, due to concerns about road traffic offences, but it is not expected that the matter will come before the courts.
Earlier this year, Sergeant Mulligan addressed a meeting of Shannon Municipal District councillors, at which he said that social media was painting an inaccurate picture of Shannon as being more dangerous than it actually is. “From what we see every day, it is not the case,” he said at the time.
Local county councillor Mike McKee is a very active user of social media himself. He said that while he understood people taking to Facebook to express their concerns and warn others, it is important that gardaí are alerted as soon as suspicions arise. “I can’t criticise people for doing it because they were quite concerned and wanted to get the message out. Their first concernwas children and the worst-case scenario was that children would be harmed, that a child be taken away. That does happen and we can’t wait until it does happen,” he said.
“It is vitally important that people report any issue to the gardaí; it doesn’t matter how insignificant it might seem. Everything should be reported to the gardaí and, unfortunately, people aren’t doing that enough.”
He added that he had “every sympathy” with people who put messages up on Facebook, as he said the safety of children is paramount.