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'At times there can be just two gardaí policing three separate feuds': Longford gangs exploiting skeletal garda cover

Armed units were dispatched to the county at the start of June.

Armed gardai on the streets of Longford in June.
Armed gardai on the streets of Longford in June.
Image: Eamonn Farrell via RollingNews.ie

POLICING OF A number of different feuds in the Longford region is reaching breaking point as officers attempt to quell tensions between a number of gangs despite having just a handful of gardaí to police the area.

Officers based in the region have a plentiful amount of garda cars as well as an overtime budget to make use of but there aren’t enough actual members of gardaí to utilise these opportunities, according to those familiar with the situation on the ground.

In recent weeks, armed units were dispatched to the area such was the fear of significant violence and even death. 

In the last eight weeks, gardaí have been sent to four separate stabbings as well as incidents of arson. These are just the incidents which gardaí were called to. Many officers believe there to be a considerably higher number of violent incidents in recent months. 

The feud centres around a number of families belonging to the Traveller community. Intimidation and violence is commonplace among the protagonists. Shots have been fired at homes, innocent family members have been threatened and intimidated and assaults are common.

Several garda members have been drafted in to support Longford from stations such as Ballymahon and Lanesboro, but the net effect is that other communities are going without proper policing so that Longford’s feud problem can be in some way quelled. 

There are times in the Longford area where there are just two members of gardaí to police the entire county, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation. 

Garda David Conroy, who is the Garda Representative Association (GRA) spokesperson for the area, said that morale in Longford is at an all-time low and that the area is in need of a significant investment in garda members so the force is able to police correctly. 

He told TheJournal.ie: “What we have in Longford is essentially the opposite to what is happening in Donegal. We have loads of cars and overtime but we have nobody to drive the cars and carry out the work. There is overtime there, in fairness, but nobody wants to avail of it because of the workload they already have. 

“Imagine you have 30 files on your books and you take the overtime, now you have 33 to do and there’s not enough time. You might get the bit of overtime, but you’ll get the stress of it as well.” 

There has been somewhat of a reduction in violent incidents in the area since the seizure of a shotgun and cartridges last week. Two women have been charged in relation to this incident. 

For now, armed members will continue intermittently patrol some of the areas which officers believe could be targeted. 

However, Conroy added that the only way that Longford will remain safe is when more officers are drafted in on a permanent basis. 

“That’s what’s needed. I know we’re blue in the face saying it at this stage but it doesn’t change what we need. What we want is the law-abiding people of Longford to be able to go about their business without fear of violence on their streets.”

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, An Gardaí Síochána said: “Gardaí in Longford and Granard Districts are to be assisted by Western Region Armed Support Units as part of Operation Stola, designed to manage the ongoing incidents of violence linked to criminal activity in Co Longford.

“Investigating Gardaí in Longford and Granard Districts have conducted a number of arrests as part of this operation, and up to 15 individuals are presently before the courts for offences linked directly to the ongoing investigations. In addition, a number of files are in preparation or have been forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions.” 

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