Garda numbers in Donegal have fallen by 21% over the last seven years, leaving the county with what one garda described as a "fire brigade service".
This significant drop in garda numbers was revealed by the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald in response to a Dáil question from Pat the Cope Gallagher TD (FF).
As of January 1st, 2009, there were 488 gardaí assigned to Donegal.
This number fell by 101, or 21%, to 387 as of August 31st this year.
Deputy Gallagher described the "stark decline" as "shocking", especially when coupled with the closure of Glenties District office.
He continued, "All the Donegal Districts bar one have experienced a decline in Garda numbers. Letterkenny District declined from 191 to 156, Buncrana District declined from 91 to 70, Ballyshannon District declined from 99 to 95, while the closure of the Glenties District meant a net loss of 58 gardaí to the Donegal division.
"Only Milford District recorded an increase in numbers, from 56 Gardaí to 66 Gardaí within the 7 year period. Milford's area doubled, however, with the closure of Glenties District.
"The reduction in garda numbers occurred during a time when Donegal has experienced a rise in rural crime and anti-social issues.
"Many of our communities have been actively lobbying for increased Garda presence in order to counteract crime and the growing menace of drugs within our neighbourhoods,” the veteran TD said.
“Fire brigade service”
Garda Brendan O'Connor, the GRA's Donegal representative, told the Democrat that the reduction in manpower, coupled with cuts in other resources, have “all but dismantled the model of policing that had previously existed”.
Gda O'Connor explained, “The 80% of officers who are left are working harder to cover larger areas. People are overburdened with their workload and services are stretched. In addition, overtime budgets are practically non-existent. So those who are left cannot be deployed as effectively before.
“That 'visible presence' is not available as it was before, and specialist units like traffic and drugs have all been pared back significantly.
“This is to the detriment of quality community policing in rural areas. A fire brigade service is always less effective than permanent full time officers in a particular area with a specific brief,” he said.
Deputy Gallagher said there is now a crisis in Donegal and called on the government to restore garda numbers in the county to their 2009 level ove the next three years.
He stated that 97% of the new recruits in 2014 1n 2015 were assigned to urban areas and said priority must be given to Donegal.
He also wants the Glenties District reinstated and more resources provided to gardaí.