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Cherry Orchard locals are 'fed up' and 'ignored' and feel criminals are 'in charge'

Gardaí in the area are “undervalued and overworked”, according to officers.

The moment a car rams a garda vehicle in Cherry Orchard last night.
The moment a car rams a garda vehicle in Cherry Orchard last night.
Image: Social Media Video

THE VIOLENCE IN Cherry Orchard which happened yesterday evening is not shocking – it has been the norm for almost a decade and frontline gardaí have told this publication they are burned out dealing with near-death experiences like those that unfolded yesterday evening. 

Social media videos yesterday captured two cars driving at high speeds and performing handbrake turns in a residential area in Ballyfermot, west Dublin. The erratic driving continues after a garda car arrives on the scene, with its lights flashing. One of the cars then rams into the garda vehicle twice.

Fortunately, both gardaí in the car at the time escaped uninjured yet remain “shook”, according to Mark Ferris, the Garda Representative Association (GRA) member for the area. 

However, this was just the latest incident in a part of Dublin once considered among the most dangerous for members of our national police force. 

Injuries of gardaí in the area have been common. Officers have received broken jaws, broken fingers and arms as well as other wounds linked to assaults. 

Resourcing of west Dublin, especially in the Ballyfermot area, has been a hot topic of discussion for gardaí and management for over a decade. 

For gardaí on the ground, it’s a case of management “giving us the resources after a bad incident and then they’ll be taken away once the pressure dies down”, according to a recently retired member.

The Journal visited the scene of the incident this afternoon. Evidence of the chaos was still there to be seen: glass shards littered green areas; patches of green were destroyed by fire and tyre tracks and tyre marks could be seen at the point where the young suspects performed handbrake turns.

While many, including the Garda Commissioner, condemned the activity of those involved there was a sense of deja vu for locals, politicians and the gardaí tasked with policing the area. 

The local reaction

Most we spoke to this afternoon were reluctant to give their names to be published but each of them had the same reaction: “It’s the same old thing over again and again.”

Large, reinforced poles containing high-tech CCTV equipment have been placed all across Cherry Orchard, such is the frequency of serious incidents. 

IMG_0220 One of the CCTV installations in Cherry Orchard. Source: Garreth MacNamee

Outside Tommy’s Shop, a woman stopped to speak with us so long as we only use her first name. 

Teresa has been living in Ballyfermot for several years, having moved from the Dublin 12 area after her husband passed away. 

When asked about her opinion on the events of yesterday evening, she joked: “I came from the pan into the fire leaving Drimnagh and coming here. Every night there’s a racket somewhere, people driving or shouting or drunk.

“I’m sick to me back teeth of them all.  The guards need to give these lads a right clip around the ear and that will soften them. I’ll be in trouble for saying that now. It’s like they’re in charge of the place though.”

Nearby, one man was weeding his front garden when we spoke to him. About to head out for work, he showed us large chunks of glass and what looked like a piece of a car’s headlight which he had removed from his garden, as well as the weeds. 

“I started wearing gloves doing this recently because I cut myself on glass a few months ago and it got infected. We are fed up. I don’t want my young fella out there kicking ball because I don’t know who he’ll end up talking to. I’ve been trying to get out of here since before Covid,” he explained.

IMG_0227 Marks left by tyres following the handbrake turns yesterday. Source: Garreth MacNamee

Garda Response

Over a decade ago, Cherry Orchard was thought of as a very dangerous area for gardaí to respond to a call. That reputation has not changed.

Over the years, there have been several operations launched to try to combat the scourge of anti-social behaviour there. 

Last month, officers carried out a blitz of searches on multiple homes in the area. 

The aim of that operation was to “disrupt, detect and prevent recurring criminal activities in the area such as the unauthorised taking of cars, criminal damage, dangerous driving and public disorder”, a statement from gardaí read at the time. 

The theft of cars has long been a problem for gardaí in the area.  There has been a trend in the area of teenagers are either buying battered cars from whoever will sell them and rallying them into the ground or else they are stealing them.

While multiple searches are welcomed by locals and officers working in the district, the resourcing of the area is not good enough and has not been good enough for a long time, according to gardaí. 

The recurring theme is that the police in the area are “reactive and not proactive”.

One GRA rep for the area said it was very fortunate that the two gardaí involved in yesterday’s incident are okay.

Ferris, for the DMR West Division, told The Journal:

As the local GRA representative, our members have consistently been telling me and the association that there is a huge lack of frontline gardaí to uphold the law in the area, with the resources we currently have.

“We have been asked why gardai aren’t coming with lights and sirens on but as the required training and qualification isn’t there for enough drivers, this is often not happening.

“Recently recruited Gardaí are given permission to drive the vehicle but they are restricted in how they conduct their driving. This has obvious implications for the effectiveness of their patrols”

Detective Garda Ferris said that members who do not have the necessary qualifications to drive using lights and sirens, fear being subjected to internal disciplinary action if they activate them.

The GRA representative also raised concerns about the technology and resources available to assist gardaí on the frontline who feel “under resourced and undervalued”.

“The two female members are recovering. Thankfully, they received no serious injuries.
They are naturally still in shock after such a traumatic incident and as the local rep I hope they make a full recovery and lessons can be learned from this appalling incident.”

Other sources within the organisation, who work in the same area, said there needs to be a big change in the policing model to protect the safety of communities.

He said: “We have highlighted they are being overworked and undervalued. Senior management do not foresee the issues arising from a continuous erosion of resources, working conditions and training. Frontline policing has been drastically cut while too many officers are tied up in excessive red tape and form filling.

“We have turned reactive, not proactive, in many disadvantaged urban communities and isolated rural communities – fire brigade style policing instead of operating a high visibility, intensive and consistent community-based policing model.”

Fire1 Emergency services extinguish a car which had been burnt out in Cherry Orchard. Source: RollingNews.ie

Political and Commissioner Reaction

Earlier today, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris described last night’s chaos as “disgraceful”. 

Harris said that there has been significant resources given to the area in recent weeks to battle anti-social behaviour. 

He said: “Overall, I would say there’s been vigorous policing operations in that area over the last number of weeks. We’ve seized vehicles and arrests have been made. People have been brought before the courts in terms of driving offences and other antisocial behaviour type of offences and also on offences related to street level drug dealing.

“There’s been a lot of enforcement work and a full investigation is underway. But also then we have to look to tonight and the subsequent nights as well. The public order unit has been stood up over the weekends. In effect, what we’ve done this brings forward our operation in response to anti-social behaviour around the Halloween period. 

Antoinette Cunningham, General Secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and inspectors (AGSI), said the “shocking” incident “shows the dangers Gardaí are exposed to as they go about their duty.”

“Gangs of people encouraging others to ram patrol cars. Disgraceful scenes and terrible to see for AGSI and the Garda Representatives Association. Should be condemned by all,” Cunningham said.

Speaking earlier. local councillor Daithí Doolan described last night’s scenes as “terrifying”.

“I hope it serves as a wake up call. This community has been ignored for too long. Urgently needs resources and support from Government and senior Gardaí,” the Sinn Féin politician said.

Gardaí have said that there were no injuries reported during the incident but have asked that anyone who may have witnessed the collision to come forward.

They also appealed for anyone who was driving in the Cherry Orchard area at around 7.30pm, who may have dash cam footage of the incident, to make it available to Gardaí.

“Anyone with any information in relation to this incident should contact Ballyfermot Garda Station on 01 666 7200, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111 or any Garda station,” said the spokesperson

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