Blake, McConalogue critical of barrack closures

Anti-drugs campaigner, PJ Blake and Donegal North East TD, Charlie McConalogue, have both reiterated their annoyance at the government’s decision to close five more Donegal garda stations.

Anti-drugs campaigner, PJ Blake and Donegal North East TD, Charlie McConalogue, have both reiterated their annoyance at the government’s decision to close five more Donegal garda stations.

Mr Blake insisted that those in power are totally out of touch with what is happening on the ground, while Deputy McConalogue said the closure on Friday of garda stations in Brockagh, Malin, Annagry, Churchill and Glencolmcille was a sad development for the county.

“According to Minister Pat Rabbitte, drugs is the one thing that is the constant driving force behind crime in this country. Yet the government of which he is part of, decided in their wisdom to wind down the Cavan/Monaghan drugs unit,” Mr. Blake said.

“There is a lot of unrest along the border counties and the killing of Garda Adrian Donohoe in Dundalk is proof of that. This was a brutal killing of a garda in the line of duty and the sad reality is that this could happen in any part of the country. I offer my sympathy to the late garda’s family and commend Fr Cusack for his homily at the funeral mass. He certainly spoke the truth and he had the right audience there to hear his views.”

The Peace Commissioner added: “The most recent figures have shown that Ireland has a relatively high use of cocaine and we top the poll in the EU when it comes to legal highs. Drugs is a big problem and my big fear is that the next drugs unit to go will be the one here in Donegal which has really proved its worth in recent years.”

In a statement issued at the weekend, Deputy McConalogue said government representatives in Donegal and across the North West region need to start listening to the communities they represent, adding that they cannot continue to ignore the public outcry over the crime issue.

“People in Donegal, who have seen the terrible impact of burglaries and crime in their communities over the past few months, cannot understand how Fine Gael and Labour can justify these cuts. The Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has now admitted that this is not about money.

He said the savings will be negligible as the only costs are light and heat for these stations. “Why then is he removing the physical presence of garda stations from so many rural communities for good?

“This motion is based on the fact that crime in communities has been escalating recently, particularly in the North West region. From November to January, there were several cases. In November Phyllis McGee, a 78-year-old lady from Pettigo, was burgled. On 5 January, a 96-year-old from Buncrana, Margaret “Greta” Lilly, was burgled. On 7 and 8 January, a number of homes were ransacked in the Raphoe-Convoy area. On 12 January Phyllis McGee was again targeted. On 14 January, Eric and Jim Steele of Manorcunningham were targeted, and they too were targeted for a second time. On 16 January, John Gallagher, from outside Buncrana, and Bernie Doherty, an elderly lady from Ture, were targeted. And Minister Shatter’s response has been to further cut our community garda resources.” The Fianna Fáil motion also condemned cuts to garda numbers and to the garda payroll, and called for the reopening of the garda training college at Templemore.

Deputy McConalogue continued, “Coming from this part of the country, I know only too well the danger that gardaí must endure, very often on a daily basis. In Donegal in the past three years, two gardaí, Garda Robbie McCallion and Garda Gary McLoughlin lost their lives in the line of duty. Only the weekend before last, there was an incident in which a garda car was rammed while in the process of making an arrest, once again highlighting the dangers that many gardaí must encounter daily. We owe them a great debt of gratitude for that. “The gardaí here in Donegal are under severe pressure at this time as they go beyond the call of duty to keep our communities safe.”