THE Garda service in Lissycasey has “doubled” since the local station closed on March 1, according to the county’s most senior garda officer.
Chief Superintendent John Kerin was speaking after a meeting in Lissycasey with a 12-person delegation representing local organisations. The group was seeking to transfer Lissycasey from the Kilrush Garda Division to the Ennis division. This has been turned down for now, although it will be subject to review.
The Lissycasey station closure coincided with the reopening of Kilmihil Garda Station on the same date.
“In most cases, the closure of a garda station results in a diminution of garda services. What has occurred here is that they will have more than double the garda service that they had before this. I also stressed at the meeting that Lissycasey is in a more enviable situation than any other rural area that I know in Clare. There are about 12 gardaí, who are based in Ennis, Kilrush or other garda stations in Clare, living in the village or within close proximity to the village,” Chief Superintendent Kerin said.
“An example of the policing responses was really well portrayed last Sunday night week. A call was made to Ennis Garda Station of cars being broken into in an estate in Lissycasey. The guards from Kilrush and Ennis responded, both coming in separate directions. While the gardaí from Ennis were arresting the four individuals at Darragh, the gardaí from Kilrush were dealing with the injured parties in the housing estate. There is no other area in the Clare Garda Division that service can be provided to. It’s an ideal location from a geographical perspective. The position always will be that no matter where the call is made to, every garda that’s working on outdoor duty has a radio with them,” he explained.
Chief Superintendent Kerin accepts that people had legitimate questions but feels he addressed any issues raised.
“We were conscious and to try and allay whatever fears they had, Superintendent Nolan, prior to his transfer to the Garda College, put in place a new system. Heretofore, there was one garda covering the Kilmihil and Lissycasey areas. Now there is going to be two gardaí full-time in Kilmihil. Both of them will have responsibilities for the Lissycasey and Kilmihil garda areas. The two gardaí who are attached to Kildysart will also have responsibilities for patrolling and responding to issues in the Lissycasey and Kilmihil areas.
“On top of that, when and if any of the gardaí are off, that are attached to Lissycasey and Kilmihil, the community garda based in Kilrush will perform duties from time to time in the Lissycasey/Kilmihil areas. They’ve accepted that the garda station is closed and that it wasn’t a garda decision to close it. Their main issue seems to be the fact that they’re under the jurisdiction of gardaí in Kilrush. I’ll be honest, I’m finding it difficult to get my head around their issues,” he said.
Chief Superintendent Kerin said while there are more gardaí based in Ennis compared to Kilrush, those in the county town are much busier.
“I told them that yes there are more gardaí based in Ennis but the number of calls coming into Ennis Garda Station are 10 times what’s required of the gardaí in Kilrush. That’s no disrespect to the gardaí in the Kilrush district; that’s just a fact. Crime is probably 10 times higher than it is in the Kilrush Garda District. There is no way that the gardaí in Ennis would be able to provide the same level of personnel to the people in Lissycasey and Kilmihil.
“The reality is that our divisional traffic corps unit, our divisional drugs units, our crime prevention officer and our juvenile liaison officers and all the other units, while they’re based in Ennis, they cover the entire county. They’re out in Lissycasey and Kilmihil just as much as they are in any other part of the county.
“There is a lot of misinformation being fed to people for whatever reason and people aren’t getting the true picture. Why would I recommend a situation where the people of Kilmihil and Lissycasey were going to be provided with an inferior service? What we’ve now put in place is going to be far superior and it’s also going to be far superior to any service that could be provided from Ennis. Where I come from [in Clare], it’s 21 miles at night to the nearest garda response if anything was to happen,” he pointed out.
Stating that his garda resources have been cut by 16%, the Clare garda boss said he will review the policing situation in Lissycasey but stresses that for now, the community will remain in the Kilrush Garda Division.
“It would be very easy for me to make the recommendation to transfer because that is in my hands. But I want what’s best for them. I will review it and if people show where our service is falling down, I will review it. I’m not cut into stone over this but some of the people are of a mindset where they are not prepared to accept any assurances. I invited them to set up a forum, which is representative of the community. I and my management team will meet them on a quarterly basis or more often, if necessary, to discuss policing issues.”
Speaking on behalf of the Lissycasey committee, Councillor PJ Kelly said the group will review Chief Superintendent Kerin’s report to them. “We will be meeting again in the next few days to discuss the outcome,” Councillor Kelly said.