Tóibín demanding Minister for Justice attend meeting to discuss local crime

Aontú leader highlighting rise in anti-social behaviour incidents and lack of Garda resources

The Safer Meath Campaign has invited the Minister for Justice to a public meeting on the growing concerns about crime and anti-social behaviour in Meath.

The meeting is being planned following a spate of anti-social behaviour across Meath over the last few weeks.

According to campaign chair, Deputy Peadar Tóibín, “anti-social behaviour has become particularly acute in the last number of weeks."

“This is all the worse considering that the Minister for Justice herself is from this county. Helen McEntee’s job is to ensure that citizens are safe and that’s simply not happening. The Safer Meath Campaign will hold a public meeting on a date that suits the Minister so she can attend and answer key questions from the citizens she is suppose to serve. We have called the Minister’s office to see when she is available and we are awaiting her getting back to us."

Minister McEntee was due to go on maternity leave this week.

Deputy Tóibín recalled a number of bins had been set alight in a number of towns during Halloween.

"Thousands of euro of damage occurred but it could easily have been far worse. Potentially these fires could have destroyed buildings, businesses and lives. This issue is not new. Navan and many other towns are being hit with a significant crime, anti social behaviour and drug abuse. It is quite clear that we don’t have the resources to deal with it. Ireland has one of the lowest number of police per capita in the EU and Meath has the lowest number of Garda per capita in Ireland. We are the lowest resourced in a country that is one of the lowest resourced in terms of police in Europe”.

Deputy Tóibín believed the problem was getting worse, claiming only 24 people had started in the Garda Training College this year.

"I have also received information that shows that at the other end hundreds of Garda are retiring. Gardaí are leaving in their hundreds but are joining in their dozens. Other information I have received shows Garda moral is incredibly low. Well over 2,100 were assaulted while on duty in the last 10 years and the numbers in the Garda Reserve Force has collapsed. The last JPC meeting in the county informed us that certain districts in Meath have seen no detections or detections are extremely low. And when Gardaí do catch criminals there is often a revolving door where the criminals are back out on the streets in no time”.

Responding, Minister Helen McEntee said the Government was committed to tackling anti-social behaviour and building stronger, safer communities in Meath and across the country.

"The recent Budget allocated funding for 1,000 additional Garda recruits and 400 Garda staff - and this will benefit communities in Meath.

"The number of Gardaí in the Meath Division has grown by over 19 per cent since 2015 when there were 277 Gardaí assigned to Meath Division, to 331 members assigned to the Meath Division as of 30 September 2022.

"Statistics from the CSO also show an decrease in a range of categories of crime when compared with the pre-Covid period of 2019.

"Between the second quarter of 2019 and the second quarter of 2022 in the Meath Garda Division, there was a 10 per cent reduction in burglary and related offences, a 9.3 per cent reduction in theft and related offences, a 50 per cent reduction in controlled drug offences and a 31 per cent reduction in public order and other social code offences."

In addition, Minister McEntee recently welcomed the commitment from An Garda Siochana that a new station is required for Laytown and the surrounding areas.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris visited Laytown on Monday, November 14 and met with Minister McEntee to discuss the new station, as well as issues of facilities, resourcing, criminality, including public order.

This followed a number of other changes underway to improve the policing service being provided to the East Meath area, two of which commenced on 8th November 2022, with the transfer of Garda members.

Laytown Garda station became a core-unit response station, operating on a 24/7 basis with four core units.

Minister McEntee said this change will allow for handover briefings and the exchange of information between units and provides for enhanced supervision and governance. This service will meet the needs of the East Meath area (Laytown and Duleek sub districts).

Duleek Garda station became a community policing hub with the transfer of new members to form a dedicated community policing unit.

"This new dedicated community policing team will provide high visibility beats and community policing duties on a non-core roster beats across the Ashbourne district, including to the Laytown and Duleek sub districts.

"Overall, both changes have resulted in a net increase in the number of Garda members working from Laytown and Duleek Garda stations.

"Additionally, work has commenced to upgrade Laytown Garda station to 'training station' status thus allowing the allocation of Trainee Gardaí in 2023."