Members of An Garda Siochana are spending too much time sitting behind a desk rather than being out on patrol, according to the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association’s (ICSA’s) rural development chair, Seamus Sherlock.

Sherlock was speaking before a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality this morning (Wednesday, October 17) on the prevalence of rural crime.

He argued that Gardai are under resourced.

It’s not about knocking the guards either. In fairness to a lot of rural Gardai, they work tremendously. They do everything possible, but the problem is they are being pulled left, right and centre.

“The biggest problem I believe and the ICSA believes, is that a lot of these rural Gardai are spending too much time sitting behind a desk, and they’ll tell you that themselves.

“They want to be out, they want to be patrolling, they want to be out looking after our elderly and most vulnerable; but they are spending huge amounts of time on a computer behind a desk,” he said.

The ICSA’s rural development chair stated that it’s not that long ago since every community had a Garda who always kept “one eye on the community”, even when they were off duty – and knew “who should and who shouldn’t be in the community”.

‘Living in fear’

Continuing, Sherlock explained that there are many people in rural communities who are living in fear of violent assault or crime – or who are frustrated at the level of thefts occurring in isolated and rural locations.

As well as this, he noted that there is a sense that criminals are “operating with impunity“.

They rarely get caught because the resources to investigate are too scarce – and when they do, the justice system seems to bend over backwards to be lenient to them.

“While we are all aware of the terrifying ordeals of individuals being attacked in their own homes or on their properties, there is a lot less awareness that farmers are regularly intimidated by trespassers on their land.

“We in the ICSA regularly hear from members about uninvited individuals coming onto their land with lurchers and with the apparent intention of shooting birds or lamping foxes.

“However, in reality, many feel that this is just a front to size up the farm and its assets. I don’t want to over dramatise this, but most country people will tell you that they are living in fear,” he said.

This is the third and final committee meeting devoted to the topic of rural crime. The committee expects to publish its report on ‘Community Policing and Rural Crime’ later this year.