Now that Covid restrictions have eased, I have been happy to meet with groups around County Carlow. An issue that has come up often is the lack of gardaí in communities. I want to discuss with the Minister the number of community gardaí in Carlow and Kilkenny because there certainly are concerns that there are not enough of them. I have written to the Garda Commissioner to ask about recruitment in my constituency. I am very concerned about this since we are now centralised, with Carlow seeming to be the poor relation in the arrangement.
Rural crime has affected us all, directly or indirectly, and we cannot continue to let it happen. People feel they are not being heard on this issue. I attend the meetings of my local joint policing committee every three or four months, which are really helpful. I compliment the members of An Garda Síochána in Carlow on the excellent job they are doing, but they are very short-staffed. The assignment of gardaí to communities is the main issue that is raised at every meeting of the joint policing committee. For example, the Garda station in Leighlinbridge was closed in 2013 and, at around the same time, the post office and houses were burgled and machinery and tools were stolen. A local Garda station is vital for small rural villages and townlands.
Since the Government has promised to reopen the station, I am looking for the date on which the Department of Justice will honour its commitment in this regard. The reopening is urgent and I am receiving calls to this effect. I would like to see an end to false hope and to see genuine action taken. I have tabled numerous parliamentary questions on this. I have raised it as a Topical Issue many times and have spoken at length about it. Carlow needs to be made a priority in Dublin and I intend to make my voice heard on this.
I want to ask about Text Alert. Text alerts are vital in the community but cost money, as the Minister of State knows. We need some kind of funding stream. What sort of funding have we available now for communities to help them with text alerts? They are so valuable, particularly to elderly residents in rural areas. I know this from talking to people. They talk about the cost of living. Services such as Text Alert will be cut if people cannot afford them. I am aware that there was a LEADER scheme. Could we have a scheme that would ensure that text alerts continue and that there is some funding for people?