Numbers-wise, the Drogheda area is being policed as if it were a small provincial town and not the sixth largest urban area in the country. At present, approximately 107 gardaí are situated in Drogheda Garda station with only one or two vehicles available at any given time. Units that should have 11 to 12 gardaí are down to five or six gardaí. This makes it very difficult to undertake normal policing work let alone to police, contain and manage an escalating drugs turf war that has seen dozens of violent incidents in recent weeks and at least three attempts on lives. Local gardaí, with the support of specialist national units, are working with their hands tied behind their backs.
The people of Drogheda need to be reassured that Garda numbers will drastically increase and those responsible for the mayhem being visited on areas of the town will be taken off the streets and locked up. In theory, we have very strong and robust anti-gang legislation as the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 allows for those directing organised crime to be taken off the streets, sent for trial to the non-jury Special Criminal Court and deprived of their liberty for up to 15 years. The annual report on the operation of this Act published each summer shows that last year eight arrests were made under section 8 of the Act but not a single case of those suspected of being involved in directing organised crime was sent for trial. I am told that gardaí are anxious to use these powers but it is proving very difficult to convince the Director of Public Prosecutions to fully utilise them.
Decent people in the Moneymore area of Drogheda, which is really in the eye of this storm at present and which I have proudly represented for the past 20 years, are prisoners in their own homes and are wondering aloud as to why those responsible for this mayhem on the streets of Drogheda have yet to see the full rigours of the law rain down on them via the special powers available in legislation. Why does there appear to be reluctance on the authorities' behalf to fully utilise these significant powers and give the law-abiding people of Drogheda and other towns and cities the reassurance that they can live their lives in a normal straightforward way? The small number of people responsible for visiting mayhem on the streets of Drogheda need to be locked up and the full rigours of the law need to be targeted at them and their behaviour to ensure Drogheda is safe place in which to live, do business and raise a family. At present, far too many people in certain areas of Drogheda are under a self-imposed curfew because they feel they cannot go out in the streets after dark because of the fear at large in the community.