Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Ceisteanna (33)

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

33. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will report on the response to an ongoing feud in County Longford; the Garda response to date; if he is satisfied that the required resources are in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27153/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Ceist ar Justice)

I have raised previously with the Minister the matter of ongoing criminal activity in towns such as Drogheda. Unfortunately, today I have to refer to what is happening in Longford where there has been serious criminal activity between two gangs in the past 12 months. I ask the Minister for an update on what is being done to give confidence to people in Longford that the State is taking this criminal activity seriously. It needs to be dealt with. We need to ensure ordinary people in Longford are able to go about their lives without this threat hanging over them.

I am concerned about the number of violent and public order incidents that have occurred in Longford in recent weeks. Criminal acts of this nature have no place in civilised society. An Garda Síochána will not permit a small number of individuals to put local communities in fear for their safety. I have been advised by the Garda Commissioner that a number of targeted operations have been put in place by local Garda management in Longford aimed at tackling and preventing the ongoing inter-family feuds in the Longford and Granard districts. Under the current initiative, the feuds will be dealt with by district resources, with more serious incidents being addressed with support from the regional armed support unit. I understand 15 arrests have taken place, with prosecutions having been initiated in a number of instances. Investigation files on incidents in Longford will be submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The Deputy is aware that there has been substantial investment in the Garda budget by the Government which will allow the accelerated recruitment programme to continue in tandem with the deployment of new and leading edge technology to support front-line gardaí in Longford in carrying out the work of delivering a visible, effective and responsive police service to communities in Longford and beyond. An Garda Síochána is determined to bring the perpetrators of these acts to justice as soon as possible. Both Garda management and my Department will continue to monitor the situation in Longford closely in the coming weeks.

It is disappointing that once again we have to debate serious criminal activity in a provincial town that receives national coverage and has a significant impact on the lives of people in the town. It is, unfortunately, a product of the drugs industry and the fact that gangs that emanate from Dublin and that have spread into provincial Ireland are making substantial amounts of money from drugs. That is an issue with which we have to deal. Councillor Seamus Butler stated on a radio programme recently that we had to try to get their ill-gotten gains in order that people would realise there was no profit to be made or benefit to be gained from dealing in drugs. It is welcome that the Criminal Assets Bureau is becoming more engaged in seizing assets worth smaller amounts in order that people will be aware that there is no profit to be made from engaging in drug-related activity. I commend An Garda Síochána for its work and acknowledge that further resources have been put in place. Unfortunately, it appears to be a trend that is moving from Drogheda to Longford. We seem to be losing control of the dominance of the drugs industry. What does the Government intend to do to ensure we will not be here in a month or six weeks' time discussing criminal activity in some other provincial town?

I am acutely aware of the concerns of the people of Longford. I have spoken directly to the cathaoirleach of Longford County Council, Mr Micheál Carrigy, about the issue. I condemn the disgraceful behaviour of a small number of thugs in the Longford area who have no regard for the rule of law. The Garda Commissioner and his management team will continue to monitor the situation in Longford closely and allocate resources in the manner that best serves communities, including those in Longford. I heard on the national airwaves a report that Longford town was within a ring of steel. That does not make for pleasant listening. The Garda management team in Longford will continue to tackle the issue to prevent ongoing inter-family feuds from taking hold in the community. A number of arrests have been made. I expect the rule of law to continue to take its course.

I note what the Minister has said, but, unfortunately, it seems to be the case that when an issue arises in a provincial town, it receives coverage, that there is a political response and, as a result, a political reaction, whereby An Garda Síochána puts more resources on the street. We need to put more resources into towns which are vulnerable such as Longford and Drogheda. I note that that has now happened. It is depressing that there is a ring of steel around Longford. We should not let it get to that stage. We need to intervene at an earlier stage. I know that the Government and the Oireachtas cannot provide all of the solutions, but we need to face up to the fact that, unfortunately, the country is awash with drugs and that people are spending a lot of money which supports criminal activity. The drugs industry is dealing in death. We need a stronger education programme. In a way, it is a little like online pornography. We need to warn young people about the dangers of drugs. We need to indicate to them the link between taking drugs and mental illness. We spend much time warning people about tobacco and alcohol. We need to warn them more about drugs.

In condemning the disgraceful criminal behaviour in Longford I condemn the serious incidents of intimidation which are drug related which impact on all communities but especially families. I am advised by An Garda Síochána that the National Family Support Network has concluded a number of evaluations of the drug related intimidation reporting programme and agreed to a number of actions. The Government has made unprecedented resources available to An Garda Síochána to assist it to carry out its vital functions. There is a specific operation in Longford and the surrounding region, Operation Stola, which has been put in place by local Garda management to address the ongoing inter-family feuds as a result of criminal behaviour being engaged in by a small number of people in the Longford and Granard districts. I am keen to ensure the reputation of a fine provincial town, Longford, will not be damaged. I am pleased to note that there have been a number of arrests and that files have been forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions. I am confident that the small number of people who continue to break the law in Longford will be brought to justice.