Neill O’Neill and Anton McNulty
GARDAÍ in Mayo have been patrolling the homes of colleagues who have been the subject of threats by criminals.
The Mayo News has learned that these special Garda patrols have been operating for a number of weeks now. They have also been stepped up in recent days following a second attack on the former family home of a garda living in Swinford. It was firebombed for the second time in a month last Saturday night.
Prior to this, the patrols were being operated from rostered, regular Garda units. Now they are being drawn from gardaí brought in specifically for these patrols.
It is believed that up to four houses in Swinford town are being patrolled at present, and the force are keeping a watch on at least one more Garda’s home in the Ballina area. This is being undertaken by officers from the Ballina Garda District. It is understood that the extra Garda resources have been deployed to patrol homes belonging to colleagues who live in Mayo but are stationed outside the county, or who are investigating criminal activity outside the county.
A source has told The Mayo News due to a lack of Garda resources, overtime has been required to maintain the patrols.
Most of the Swinford Garda District was amalgamated with the Claremorris Garda District as part of the national Garda Síochána Policing Plan for 2013 (Foxford joined the Ballina District). Before this, there was a superintendent attached to both the Swinford and Claremorris Garda Districts. Now there is only one acting superintendent – a recently promoted Inspector – covering the entire amalgamated district.
Since the weekend, Swinford-based councillor Michael Smyth has said the force is severely under-resourced in the Swinford area since the merger with the Claremorris District.
The house which was attacked in Swinford for the second time at the weekend is located in Cullane and belonged to a garda’s late mother. It was not occupied at the time of the incident. The first attack occurred on February 17, when fire damage was caused to the house. The second attack, which took place on Saturday evening, caused substantial damage to a number of rooms.
A garda spokesperson would not comment for operational reasons on suggestions that the house was damaged due to the garda’s role in investigating crime.
However, The Mayo News has learned that in light of the recent attacks on the garda’s home, dedicated patrols around the homes of other members of the force living in the county have intensified.
A source told The Mayo News that the criminal gang believed to be involved in the arson attack are ‘involved in a lot of stuff’ and may see the garda ‘as a soft target’ for intimidation.
A Garda spokesperson said that the attack occurred between 7.40pm and 7.55pm on Saturday evening. The house is located close to the Topaz filling station near the turn-off for the N5 and anyone who may have witnessed any suspicious activity is asked to contact Claremorris or Swinford Garda Stations.