The former mayor of Galway Niall McNelis says that a lack of Gardaí is making incidents of violence and assault more difficult to tackle.
According to figures given at a recent City Joint Policing Committee meeting, there is approximately one Garda for every 384 people in Galway city.
The population has steadily been on the rise in the last number of years, and Mr. McNelis believes that diminishing numbers of Gardai on the force are making the area harder to police.
Although he says that Gardaí are taking the right steps to tackle incidents of assault and violence, he feels that the challenge of low numbers is still a factor; “We need more Gardai, it’s difficult to police without the numbers.”
As the Chairperson of the Galway City Joint Policing Committee, McNelis is familiar with the challenges that the Gardai face. In October, Gardaí increased their patrols in the city following a spate of assaults, putting pressure on an already-stretched force.
In response to the assaults, measures were also taken by the University of Galway Students’ Union, in conjunction with the Gardaí. Speaking to SIN, SU President Sai Gujulla outlined some of the measures that were taken, “The SU received various messages from students who are genuinely afraid to go home at night.
“Safety measures needed to be implemented more than ever before, some of which include increased campus security patrolling, Gardaí Information stands on campus, distribution of free personal safety alarms, and increased Gardai patrolling in city areas… in plain clothes.”
Despite the added measures, it is not projected that the force will be galvanised by an influx of new recruits this year, either. At November’s City Joint Policing Committee meeting, newly-appointed Chief Superintendent for Galway, Gerry Roche, projected that “no one, or only single figures” will be added into Galway’s force in 2023.
However, McNelis believes that recent changes to the way the Gardaí operate have streamlined certain processes; “Thankfully, we now have a new policing model that’s specialised, and it is looking at assault a lot more.”
Although concerns over a lack of boots on the ground in Galway remain, McNelis moved to allay concerns that it would prevent Gardaí from tackling incidents of assault and violence, when they do occur.
McNelis says that recent criminal convictions point to the fact that crimes in the city will not go unpunished; “It’s been over a year since the firework attack happened in Eyre Square, and we’ve just seen that the person who did it received jail time.
“We need to make sure that if people do something, they know what the punishment is.”