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Dublin: 19 °C Wednesday 27 May, 2020
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Bailieboro locals say it was resources they needed, not enquiries

The community is not worried about corruption in the force, but it is screaming out for more gardaí to police it.

TWO YEARS AGO, a quiet Cavan town suddenly found itself at the centre of a massive controversy.

Its local gardaí had been accused of corruption and of criminality. The whole country was being told that crimes in their community had not been properly investigated.

“It was scary, because it was so close to home,” one local woman told TheJournal.ie today.

Now two years on from a report that was critical of a number of the investigating gardaí, of then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and of Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, the people of Bailieboro are not worried about corruption among their local gardaí. Like rural communities all over Ireland, they are just concerned they don’t have enough of them.

sdr Bailieboro garda station. Source: Michelle Hennessy/TheJournal.ie

“I think in a lot of cases, the funds weren’t trickling down to the garda stations,” one business owner said.”What’s happening here is probably mirrored throughout the country.”

Maurice McCabe could have been in any station and it could have been there, but my thinking of the whole thing was it was decisions that would have been made higher up and money and things like that was not coming down.

‘Scapegoated’

Though the O’Higgins Report has yet to be published, details revealed by RTÉ indicate it found failings were often due to a lack of supervision of probationary gardaí. During the period in question, almost three quarters of Bailieboro’s officers were trainees.

“It’s easy to blame trainees or cadets. As they come in as a junior they’re probably like everyone else, they get the rough end of the stick. I think they were scapegoated,” he said.

Though the garda district has had a shadow hovering over it for the last number of years, one woman told us she has “full confidence” in gardaí based in the local station.

I’ve had absolutely no trouble with the guards in reporting things. And I’ve never heard anybody giving out. They’d always be keeping an eye on things and they’d always let us know they’re here.

Her comments were mirrored by the business owner we had spoken to earlier.

“I’ve never had any problems with them. The first I actually heard about this was when all these allegations came out. All that stuff was news to me.”

sdr Bailieboro town. Source: Michelle Hennessy/TheJournal.ie

The two reports into the whistleblower’s allegations have focused on investigations that were not properly handled, but his personal experience as a victim of a crime in Bailieboro was different.

“I got the shop window broken and the guards came. The fella was actually got [sic] and brought to court afterwards and he came in and sorted it for me. The guards all the way told me how it was progressing. It was just a broken window, it was only a trivial thing, but fair play to them.”

Crime

For this Bailieboro business owner, the new report – the second to examine allegations against gardaí in the district – means little for his everyday life.

Everybody’s happy – the minister, he did nothing wrong, the commissioner did nothing wrong, Maurice McCabe did nothing wrong. It doesn’t surprise me what’s going on in this country anymore.

In fact, the community in Bailieboro seem altogether disinterested in the contents of the O’Higgins report. Instead, they talk about the ongoing drug problems in the area with gangs from Dublin moving through their town, and their fears of being victims of a burglary. They are also concerned about the activity of dissident groups travelling back and forth across the nearby border.

“There’s a lot of stuff going on in the town that’s just been overlooked. Nothing’s been done about it in recent years,” one man commented.

There are a lot of guards stationed to that station, but they are spread out over a big area. They’ve too much to do. Sometimes you go looking for a guard and you wouldn’t see them for days.

In a district that had 48 rank-and-file gardaí last year covering seven parts of the county with thousands of residents, it all comes back to resources.

“I remember being in an accident before and calling about it and there was one person in the station and they couldn’t get anyone out to me. So, I feel like they’re probably just thrown in at the deep end,” another local told us.

“The area has changed and I don’t think the guards are given enough resources or just people, I think, for the amount of stuff that’s going on. I don’t think there’s enough of them.”

The new minority-led government has promised to increase the garda force to 15,000 but for communities like Bailieboro, it may be too little, too late.

Read: It’s two weeks on the minister’s desk but we’re still waiting for the garda whistleblower report>

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