I thank the Ceann Comhairle's office for allowing us to raise this issue. It has been a concern of citizens in west Kildare, particularly in the Carbury area. This stems from the fact that Garda numbers in Kildare have not increased in line with population. In 2014, there were 305 full-time gardaí in Kildare, while there were 306 in 2008. There has been a 12% increase in population in the area but there has not been a corresponding increase in the number of gardaí. The lack of policing has had serious consequences for people in the area. People must travel as far as 40 km to Leixlip for day to day issues like getting a simple passport form and they believe that they are sitting ducks for burglaries. Community alert schemes have been told there is no point in contacting the Garda because of the length of time it will take gardaí to arrive at the location.
Apart from day to day policing issues, crime in the area has taken a nasty turn in recent times. This is normally a very quiet rural area, but the absence of a full-time Garda station and inadequate policing in recent years have not gone unnoticed by some of the country's most serious criminal gangs, who view the area as an ideal base for their activities. Ease of access to Dublin and lack of policing mean that this quiet area has become a magnet for a criminal drug gang, which is wreaking havoc. The people involved are ruthless, heavy-handed thugs with no regard for people, who operate on fear and intimidation. The escalation of violence was covered recently by the national media. Incidents include a Garda station being shot at in the middle of the night, an attempt to set the station on fire and several cars being burnt out. In addition, the GRA has recently confirmed that six gardaí who work at the station had death threats made against them. One was even followed home and their families were threatened. People in this area are living in fear. I recognise the fact that extra recruits have come out of Templemore in recent months and that several gardaí have been stationed in this area. The one thing we cannot have is people going about their ordinary lives in intimidation and fear.