IT is easier to find a septic tank than a Garda in rural Ireland, according to Ballinakill resident Ger Dunphy, who spoke to the Leinster Express about the closure of the Garda station in Abbeyleix.
The teacher said that as well as people being anxious due to the closure, losing basic services in rural Ireland was also very worrying.
“What’s next? Move all the national schools into Portlaoise? But there is no selective mechanism in operation when the government’s taxation arm stretches it’s tentacles into rural Ireland. They can find our septic tanks but we cannot see a Garda except maybe in Mr Shatter’s constituency”.
He said that adequate policing “in the present time is just not good enough” and that people who live in and around Ballinakill will not feel safer in their homes with the Gardaí’s enhanced grid patrolling system.
“The state seems to be washing its hands of what is happening in rural areas and people have to do something at a local level”.
Mr Dunphy praised the Garda who is now leaving the area and said that he was very familiar to locals.
“The last Garda knew what was going on in the area. He had a human presence and people knew him. They won’t know the next person that comes in at all. There are a lot of people in both rural areas and towns living on their own now and they must feel a little bit nervous, would they even know who to ring if something was wrong?”.
Mr Dunphy said that as a result of the closures, he hoped that community alert in the area would be revived.
“There is always the fear that the individual will take the law into their own hands but what defence have you? Maybe the Gardaí could help get the community alert revived”.
Mr Dunphy said that Ballinakill Fianna Fail Cumman held a meeting recently to discuss these issues. Attended by Deputy Sean Fleming, councillors John Joe Fennelly and Brendan Phelan, the public representatives were informed by the members that the permanent closure of Ballinakill and reduced opening hours of Abbeyleix Garda station was causing anxiety and fear in these communities especially among the old and those living on their own.
“The recent assault on the owner of a business premise and vandalism to a shop window on Stanhope Street highlighted the folly and short-sightedness of recent government policy”, added Mr Dunphy.
“The meeting expressed concern that the loss of other important services like a Post Office and a National School might follow thus depriving the town of Ballinakill and other small towns of vital community services.
“The future of Abbeyleix District hospital was also discussed and quoted as another example of life being drained out of communities in rural Ireland,” the said..