People in rural Ireland would sleep much more soundly in their beds if there were 24-hour manned Garda stations in their local areas – BREEN

September 24th, 2009 - Pat Breen

Speaking during the Debate on the Home Defence Bill 2009 put forward by Fine Gael, Deputy Breen said ” I congratulate Deputy Flanagan and his team on bringing this Bill before the House. It is unfortunate that the Government will not support the Bill this afternoon because it is very fair and tilted in favour of the homeowner. If somebody breaks into a home and there is clear criminal intent, the law should be tilted in favour of the homeowner and not the intruder. For anybody that has been through this, there is nothing more dramatic than waking up and finding an intruder in one’s home, and many victims never get over it.
I understand Eircom Phonewatch did a survey recently and stated more than €100 million worth of goods were stolen from Irish homes between June 2007 and June 2008. On average, nearly €4,000 was taken from each home during that period. The same survey revealed the interesting fact that eight out of ten burglaries take place while the occupant is at home. It is frightening for people to have this happen in their homes. The figures have risen significantly since 2004, when only five out of ten burglaries were reported to have taken place when occupants were at home.
In the past three years the number of burglary incidents reported to Claregalway division stations have grown from 316 in 2005 to 458 in 2007, with the rate of detected burglaries for the same period having increased from 55 in 2005 to 142 in 2007. While I commend the Garda on the increase in detection rates, we could attain a higher rate of detection in our policing policy if the policy supported the maintenance of local rural Garda stations. The national CSO crime figures, which were published in February of this year, showed a similar trend. Theft and related offences had increased by 2%, and burglary and related offences had increased by 4.5%. Like many Deputies, I am aware of a spate of burglaries in my own constituency, particularly in rural and isolated areas, in recent months. Elderly people and people who live alone are most vulnerable to such crimes. In my own parish, an elderly man who lives on his own in an isolated area was recently attacked and tied up for the sake of €60 or €70. It is a relatively common phenomenon. If he had not freed himself, the consequences of the crime could have been much worse.
The people of rural Ireland would sleep much more soundly in their beds if there were 24-hour manned Garda stations in their local areas. There is a huge cloud over the future of many rural Garda stations. The current trend is to concentrate Garda stations in urban areas, at the expense of rural communities. The only 24-hour Garda stations in County Clare are in Ennis, Shannon, Kilrush, Killaloe and Ennistymon. The other Garda stations open for just a few hours each day. In recent months, I have received a number of calls from people who live in isolated parts of the county and are worried about the increased incidence of burglaries in their areas. They are concerned that the short opening hours of their local Garda stations are resulting in gardaí having to travel long distances to respond to incidents. It is sad that it takes gardaí a long time to respond to incidents in villages like Miltown Malbay, which is 13 km from Ennistymon, and Ballyvaughan, which is 25 km from Ennistymon. The Government has turned a blind eye to the Garda Síochána’s policy of increased urbanisation. I call on the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, to review the strategy and to put gardaí back in our rural areas.
The aim of this Bill is to tilt the balance in favour of the victim, rather than the criminal. Surely one should be able to protect one’s family when an intruder breaks into one’s home with criminal intent. This Bill will ensure that a jury will be able to consider one’s specific circumstances at the time of the confrontation. More importantly, it will provide protection from civil liability to people who potentially could be sued by a burglar. Fine Gael is not suggesting that home owners should confront intruders. On the contrary, we are proposing that legal protection should be afforded to home owners who find themselves in unavoidable situations when criminals enter their homes. Everybody has the right to live in peace and to be safe in his or her home. I urge the Government to reconsider this Bill,