Speaking recently in the Dáil, I questioned the Department of Justice over the the recent increase in feuding and violent gang activity in our local community. People have been reeling with shock following incident after incident of gang warfare, linked to the drugs trade, being played out on the streets of different parts of Dublin West. Children are afraid and their parents are afraid for them. In one particular area, parents and teachers are fearful because of two incidents where a gun was fired in front of a primary school and a week or two later, outside a secondary school.
I recently asked the Minister for Justice, how many Community Gardaí were working in our local community, which has a population of over 100,000. There are 13 Community Gardaí, of whom one is a Sergeant. All of the different policing reports suggest that community policing should be at the heart of policing in this country. In an area that is bigger than Limerick city or Waterford city, there are only 13 Community Gardaí. Are we asked to believe this is adequate? Community Gardaí are the backbone of the policing service. They get to know the people. They get to know the kids who may have got into a bit of trouble and who can be deterred away from it. They get to know the families and where the problems are.
Some weeks ago, the Minister committed to addressing the problems of crime in our community. The Taoiseach himself, who also represents the area, pronounced that he was extremely concerned about what was happening on our streets. Absolutely nothing has been done however. We need a Special Crime Task Force, interventions to help young people, and to provide alternatives to crime for teenagers who are being drawn in by the drugs gangs. We also need to help parents who are being levied with drug debts on behalf of their children.
We need to see action from this Government. Fine Gael has always talked of itself as a party which, when in Government, seeks to keep law and order. In certain parts of our community, it is failing dramatically. I really am perplexed as to why the Government is unable to learn the lessons of what happened in the north inner city as a result of the drug feud in that area. It has now allowed a parallel drug feud to explode in another significant area of the city and appears to have absolutely no answer for it.
What is more, we are being told that Tusla is proposing to withdraw the limited counselling services it provides in a number of DEIS schools. These services are provided in schools in which children have seen young men with guns about 100 yards from the school gate and Tusla is withdrawing them because they are not part of any Tusla-type medical service. What is going to happen to these children?
The Gardaí are doing their absolute best, but unless the Government commits more resources to Dublin West, the Gardaí will not be able to get on top of the violent gang activity. After questioning the Department of Justice on these issues, the Minister on behalf of the Minister for Justice in his reply said:
“The Minister is very much aware of the impact that this type of criminal activity can have on a community whether in Blanchardstown, Drogheda or elsewhere. It can profoundly affect a whole community and not just those involved. It is simply unacceptable for people to feel threatened when they should feel safe and secure in their locality. As the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, has said, this type of criminal behaviour will not be tolerated.
“Last Thursday, the Minister visited Blanchardstown Garda station and met with two detective inspectors. He was briefed on the ongoing operations including the outcome of a number of searches which have been conducted since the beginning of the year. The Minister has also been informed by An Garda Síochána that a crime prevention and detection initiative, including high-visibility uniformed and armed patrols to disrupt criminal activities, has been put in place by senior Garda management in the Dublin metropolitan region west. This operation is specifically targeting criminality associated with disputes between crime groupings in the region and is being managed and co-ordinated through the incident room established to co-ordinate the related criminal investigations.
“An Garda Síochána has further advised that every opportunity to target the criminal activities of those involved directly in the ongoing dispute is being availed of in order to maintain control of the situation. Local gardaí, both uniformed and plain-clothes, are working with other national units, including the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, the special detective unit and armed support units, as well as security and intelligence branch in Garda headquarters to ensure that all intelligence available is circulated in a timely manner.
“In the last month alone, gardaí in that division have conducted a number of successful operations in the locality. Gardaí investigating an incident of criminal damage by fire to a house in Blanchardstown on Saturday, 4 May have already arrested two males in connection with the incident. A file is now being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions. On Tuesday, 2 April, gardaí responded to a report of shots fired in the vicinity of the community college on Blanchardstown Road North. Gardaí carried out searches in the Corduff area and a man in his 20s was arrested and detained. On Friday, 26 April, gardaí from Blanchardstown, supported by members of the Defence Forces, carried out a search of waste ground and discovered a loaded pistol and silencer. At a separate location they discovered a small quantity of ammunition. Forensic testing was carried out and inquiries are ongoing. On Tuesday, 30 April, a residential premises and wasteland at Sheephill Park, Blanchardstown was searched. During this search a loaded semi-automatic sawn-off shotgun which had been concealed in undergrowth was recovered.
“I take this opportunity to urge anyone that may have information regarding these incidents to contact their local or nearest Garda station or to avail of the Garda confidential line, the telephone number for which is 1800 666 111, as soon as possible. Any information, no matter how small, could be of great assistance to the ongoing Garda inquiries.”