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‘We’re totally stretched’

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MORALE IN FORCE IS ‘LOW ENOUGH’ Garda Ronan O’Grady, Mayo GRA Rep.

Oisín McGovern

THE new policing model in Mayo has been called into question after Gardaí took one hour to reach the scene of a three-car collision just outside Castlebar.
A local citizen directed traffic while ambulances attended the incident before Gardaí eventually arrived from Claremorris Garda Station.
In light of this, the Cathaoirleach of Castlebar Municipal District Michael Kilcoyne is to request a meeting with Chief Superintendent Ray McMahon to discuss policing levels in the Castlebar area.
Garda Ronan O’Grady, who is the spokesman for the Garda Representatives Association’s Mayo division, told The Mayo News that the force is ‘totally stretched’ across the county.
In an email to Cllr Kilcoyne, a citizen who witnessed the crash described the Garda response as ‘not acceptable in this day and age’.
This comes off the back of an incident where a Castlebar-based business owner had to chase robbers himself after there were no Garda cars available to attend a burglary.
“Firstly, I don’t want this to be taken as a criticism of the Gardaí, as I have several family members who are members of the force, and appreciate how difficult their job is. My concern is the lack of availability of Gardaí in times of need,” wrote the eyewitness, who did not wish to be named.
“On Tuesday evening last, (June 14) at approximately 17.15, I was returning home from work, I turned in off the main Ballinrobe Road in Castlebar, into my apartment and from the time I parked my car to reaching my front door, there had been a three-car collision.
“I told my husband to phone the emergency services whilst I went to check if people were OK. Thankfully there were no major injuries. But as you can imagine there was chaos on the road. This is a very busy stretch of road at a very busy time in the evening.
“On phoning the gardaí, we were informed that there were no gardaí available and we would have to wait for someone to come from Claremorris Garda Station.
“My husband spent 50 minutes out on the road directing traffic amid the chaos, and thank God he did or there would most certainly have been more accidents.”
Ambulances attended the scene of the accident ‘very quickly’ before a garda car which happened to be passing called for garda colleagues to attend the scene.
“My husband continued to direct traffic until further Garda back up arrived, over an hour after the accident happened.
“This is not acceptable in this day and age. Had any party involved been under the influence of alcohol or drugs, this hour delay could have had serious repercussions.”
The email concluded with a call for action to prevent a similar incident occurring in the future.
“With a state of the art Garda Station, such as ours in Castlebar, surely there should be adequate staff to cover. This is a serious issue that requires action urgently to avoid this happening in the future.”
Members of Mayo Joint Policing Committee were recently told that the number of Gardaí in Mayo is at its highest level in 15 years.
Chief Superintendent Ray McMahon said that there were 338 currently in Mayo and that he was ‘duty bound to follow Government policy’ in relation to policing.

SEVERELY DEPLETED
GARDA Ronan O’Grady told this newspaper that staff levels in An Garda Síochána are ‘severely depleted’ across the county at the moment.
Garda O’Grady said that the current shortage was not due to Gardaí taking annual leave, which many members had accumulated during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“There’s been a huge amount of guards gone from ‘the regular’, which is what we’d call the frontline, on promotions, retirements, gone into specialist units and not being replaced. That issue is across the board in Mayo,” he said.
The Newport-based Garda said that morale is ‘low enough’ in the force and that members are finding it difficult to get holiday cover.
He said that the force, due to a number of factors, is ‘noticeably busier’ at the moment.
“We’re totally stretched manpower-wise. Regularly the car would have to go from Westport to Castlebar. Castlebar seems to be badly affected.”
Newly-elected Cathaoirleach of Caslebar Municipal District Michael Kilcoyne said he will write to the Chief Superintendent in relation to policing in his area.
“This incident really reinforces the shortage of Gardaí,” he told The Mayo News. “I am going to write to the Chief Superintendent Ray McMahon on behalf of the members of the district and I am going to request a meeting with himself and the deputy chair Blackie Gavin.
“What we’re looking for is assurances that there will be adequate manpower in the station at any time. I understand that since then people have come over to Westport to cover. It’s crazy stuff.”
Westport-based councillor Christy Hyland confirmed that gardaí are regularly called from the Westport area to attend incidents in Castlebar.
The former garda doubled down on his criticism of the new policing strategy, which he has branded ‘a disaster’, and called on Mayo’s Oireachtas members to highlight the issue.
“People in rural Ireland are entitled to a service. How you police a city and how you police rural Ireland is two different situations. It’s not going to work,” he said.
In a statement issued to The Mayo News, the Garda Press Office said it does not comment on individual incidents or on remarks made by third parties.
“An Garda Síochána operates a Regional Control Room strategy which ensures that Garda resources are available to respond to calls for service from the public, including situations where a local resource is not immediately available.”