Independent TD Mattie McGrath has called on the Minister for Justice to allay the fears that are emerging by his apparent refusal to answer questions on the number of applications for firearm licences made between 2008 and 2013.
Deputy McGrath was speaking after it became clear that despite waiting for a period of almost two months to receive answers to parliamentary questions he submitted on the issue, that no answers seem to be been forthcoming.
“This is a matter of the utmost seriousness, particularly in light of the recent threats to community safety occasioned by the Minister’s determination to continue his policy of closing Garda Stations across the country. It is imperative therefore that we have a very clear understanding of the level of firearm ownership.”
The protracted delay is seen as signalling yet again the confusion and incompetence which appears to be operative within the Minister’s department. It follows a dispute which arose between information issued to Deputy McGrath in February concerning the number of Garda Vehicles operating in the Tipperary District.
“Two months ago we received flawed information about vehicle numbers. This week the County Council was left angered and bewildered when in a response to questions asked by Councillor Richie Molloy, the Department advised us that Clonmel had a resident Chief Superintendent, when in fact Clonmel has never had a Chief Superintendent. He is resident in Thurles. All of this only confirms our suspicions that the Minister clearly does not know what is going on in his own department,” Deputy McGrath said.
The issue of oversight of firearm ownership is now seen as fast descending into chaos. Last year The National Association of Regional Game Councils claimed that Gardaí mislaid hundreds of files containing sensitive information including names and addresses of gun owners as well as security arrangements. The Data Protection Commissioner also received a number of complaints in relation to the loss of firearms licences from Garda stations.
“The whole situation speaks to the utterly flawed policies being pursued by this Minister. The cuts to Garda numbers, the closures of Garda stations, the inability of his department to give coherent responses to legitimate questions despite the obvious urgency of them, can only give comfort to one section of our community, namely the criminal element. It is time for the Minister to get a grip on his department and to take seriously once and for all the deep concerns that are out there,” concluded Deputy McGrath.