Three South Tipperary communities have been hit by a devastating budget bombshell with the people of New Inn, Dundrum and Grangemockler reeling from the loss of garda stations due to close in January.
Appalled by the closure of the stations, local busines people, the elderly and residents of the three villages have expressed their anger and concerns of the move which will leave them without a garda presence in their villages.
In the buddget the government announced the closure of one hundred garda stations around the country, three of them are in South Tipperary.
There was a real sense of despair and grievance on the streets of New Inn, Dundrum and Grangemockler after the budget was announced as people were left bewildered at the decision to leave them and their communities in such a vulnerable position.
Ger O’Connor, who runs a tyre business in New Inn, said his premises had been broken into twice lately, on one occasion thieves stole €900 worth of batteries.
“It’s going to leave people wide open. It’s crazy to take away the garda station from this community given all the break-ins that are happening. A short while ago the parochial house was broken into and they took the lead off the convent roof and took it again after it was replaced the first time” said an angry Mr O’Connor.
He said people were shocked by the closure of the station because they had been used to having a garda presence.
“It’s going to leave the elderly people of the community very vulnerable. We had a full time garda up to a few years ago, it was part-time up to now and now we have been told that the doors are closing. It’s unacceptable to do such a thing,” he said.
“It’s absolutely scandalous to take away our garda station. The parochial house was done recently and a man down the road had a break in and he rang the guard and was told nobody was available to come,” said Cherrianne O’Donnell.
In Dundrum, Tom Ryan said the closure would be a huge loss to everybody in the village and in the surrounding area.
“The local garda knows everybody and knows everything that is going on. He has his finger on everything and can sort things out before it becomes a problem,” he said.
Biddy and Tom Stapleton, who were doing their shopping in Heffernans, said people were disappointed at the news.
“It’s giving the robbers a chance. I would feel a lot safer if it was open,” said Biddy.
Billy Ryan, a former West GAA Board Chairman, said the closure was a big conern for eveyrbody because they always had a very good calibre of garda on duty in Dundrum.
“It is certainly not good news. Instead of going forward we are going backward. People of all ages will be more vulnerable because of this. It’s a very serious situation for the local community. We always had a garda presence here and now we will have nothing. A local garda in the community mixes with people and he knows what is happening and can nip a crime quickly becasue of his local knowledge,” said Mr Ryan.
Catherine O’Dwyer said she was very upset by the loss of the garda station.
“It’s good for the robbers but nobody else. I know an 87 year old man in the village who always kept his door open, he won’t be able to do that anymore. This is a sad day for Dundrum, a pure disgrace,” she said.
Maureen Breen said she lived a mile outside the village and was very concerned by the closure of the station.
“It is upsetting for everybody because we always had a guard here in the village. A few years ago we even had three or four gardai. There are a lot of break-ins around here and we really need a garda here,” she said.
In Grangemockler, Susan Judge, who is in business with Michael Murphy operating the Auld Mill Bakery and shop, said they would feel a lot safter if the garda station remained opened.
“It is a worry for people and they are coming into the shop talking about it all the time. It is a huge concern because people here are used to having a garda presence and rely on it,” said Susan.
“When I lock up the buisness here at the end of the day it’s dark and quiet. We need the garda station to stay open, it’s part of the community. There is no post office or bank here, we have to hold onto the garda station,” said Susan.
“Closure of the garda station makes you even more rural, we are being left without this service and level of protection. It’s not good enough,” she said.
The closures were strongly criticised by Independent TD Mattie McGrath who described them as another massive blow for rural Ireland.
“It will leave rural people wide open for further attacks on their home. Homes are being broken into a daily basis and we continue to close down rural garda stations. Elderly people are living in fear and the lack of a presence of a garda in the area is leaving people wide open for attack” said Deputy McGrath
“This is another massive blow to Rural Ireland and as we wait for more details of the budget to become clear, I don’t expect that the Government will put extra funding into Community Alert Schemes or security measures for the elderly to help them protect themselves and their homes” concluded McGrath.