For the past months we have witnessed a number of high profile and worrying criminal events across the State that are causing great concern. There has been a raft of ATM thefts on both sides of the Border. There is also insidious evidence of an increase in gang activity and drug related activity in Drogheda in particular. The Garda armed response unit had to be brought into Drogheda. It appears that Drogheda has been left short of gardaí for the past year and criminal activity was allowed fester in the context of that shortage.
Drogheda, as we all know, is a fantastic town. I had the pleasure of visiting it last year during the Fleadh and the welcome was phenomenal. The people of Drogheda took charge of their own destiny by having a very dignified and silent protest calling on criminal gangs to step back and calling for action to protect their town and the people in it.
These criminal gangs and others involved in the drug trade are spreading their malignant activity across the State as pressure comes on them in Dublin. People living in towns, villages and small communities across the country are justifiably concerned about this activity. They are concerned about the poor and slow response to what is happening.
Last night RTÉ carried a report from Longford, a small and proud town which has armed gardaí - once again - on duty on its streets as we speak. There have been two arson attacks, four stabbings and 43 violent incidents there over the past months. People are worried, concerned and fed up. This morning the Garda Representative Association was interviewed on RTÉ's "Morning Ireland" and spoke about gardaí not being able to engage actively with the feuding families as they are operating a fire brigade service, going from call to call. The GRA representative said that the force is operating on a very tight overtime budget and there simply are not enough gardaí patrolling the streets. He believes that the only answer is gardaí on the street in their faces so they cannot behave like that. This is the view of the GRA, which represents the gardaí on the street.
I refer to Longford and Drogheda but are there other towns or communities that will have the armed response on their streets over the next weeks? What is the Government doing to engage actively with these problems before they require that level of response? What is the Government doing to prevent eruptions of gang violence around the country before communities are terrorised and before people are threatened in their own communities? Does the Tánaiste believe that extra resources are needed to tackle this issue in the State?