FAR reaching questions about the operation of the Joint Policing Committee (JPC) have been raised by a West Clare councillor, who believes the local authority can do more to support the Gardaí.
At the quarterly meeting of Clare’s JPC, Councillor Ian Lynch said the most active participants appeared to be An Garda Síochána and more integration between the stakeholders is possible.
With the development of a new seven-year plan for the JPC, the Independent member said the time was opportune to address the issue.
“The meetings are very functional and serve a purpose,” he said, “but there are a couple of things I think we need to look at.
“There are seven aims in the plan and they’re very needed and very topical: Supporting the JPC in Crime Prevention; Protecting the Vulnerable, Anti-Social Behaviour, Supporting Community Initiatives; Supporting Volunteers; Responding to Victims’ Needs and Road Safety.
“They all come up here regularly. The problem I have with the current set up of the meeting is that there’s three major stakeholders – An Garda, the Council and the HSE. The only people that do anything are the Guards and the only presentation we get is from the Guards, and it takes a long time to put that presentation together. We’re not getting a list of actions from the Council or the HSE.”
Councillor Lynch told Chief Superintendent Seán Colleran that his presentation to the meeting had covered most of the seven topics from a Garda perspective.
“What have we done as a Council?” he asked. “What policies over the last ten years have we developed collectively to try to make sure we’re achieving these aims?”
The Kilrush man said there were numerous topics of concern to the Council which should be the focus of discussion at JPC meetings.
“In respect of Domestic Violence, which is very topical, we have situations in our properties where the Gardaí have taken action and removed perpetrators, but we as a local authority cannot remove the perpetrator from the lease,” he said. “The legislation doesn’t allow it. We need to be putting submissions forward on that at the JPC to try to make sure our Oireachtas members sort that out.”
“Speeding also comes up regularly,” Councillor Lynch added. “I don’t expect the Gardaí to be able to stop speeding on every single road, 24 hours a day, but when we bring it up at Municipal District meetings, the answer we get is, ‘That’s a Garda issue’.
“The Guards go out and they might get some detections, but we should be working collectively to see if we can use the road safety schemes to try and make the roads safer, but we’re not having that discussion.”
Councillor Lynch said there had been a focus on visible Garda patrols in the wake of the Aisling Murphy case, but that the council also has a role.
“There are huge issues around lighting,” he said. “There are areas in our towns and villages where people are walking and it’s dark. Collectively, we should be looking at those, and we can make applications under the Active Travel Fund.
“Covid also brought in outdoor dining. We have a decision to make in the [Council] chamber about the retention of outdoor dining, but our next [JPC] meeting is not until May.
“It’s been of huge economic benefit. We haven’t seen a downside, because it’s been finished early. We need to be having a discussion and this is one of the forums where we should be having that discussion – do we remove it? Do we retain it? What’s our input? What’s the Garda input? We want to make an informed decision in the chamber. An Garda Síochána are doing huge work on their side, but the Council also need to show what work we’re doing.”
He asked that the structure of the JPC meeting be looked at to see how greater integration of stakeholder activity could be achieved.
Councillor Lynch also thanked Gardaí for their work in developing positive relationships between the community and the force, particularly in West Clare.
Director of Service Leonard Cleary said he would bring Councillor Lynch’s ideas to the next steering committee to see how they could be progressed. “At a national level, there is a review of the administration side of the JPC in the local government sector and An Garda Síochána are involved directly with that,” Mr Cleary said.
“We expect a report on that before the summer. Outside of the JPC meetings, Clare County Council works closely with An Garda Síochána and elected members are also involved as are the community and voluntary sectors in a number of initiatives.”