A BOOKMAKERS has been robbed and a car has been stolen and set alight in Ballyconnell, County Cavan just weeks after a decision to downgrade its Garda station sparked anger in the community.
A senior Garda told a meeting of concerned residents in Ballyconnell on Monday night that he made “no apology” for spearheading the decision to leave the West Cavan area without a 24 hour Garda station for the first time since the formation of the state.
The station, which is located close to the Fermanagh Border, now closes every night at 9pm and does not reopen until 9am with all phone calls during that period directed to Gardai in Cavan Town.
It’s understood the volume of calls after 9pm, the number of people calling into the station and personnel constraints contributed to the decision.
Superintendent James Coen said opening the station 24 hours a day did not meet the delivery of “operational effectiveness” and as a result there were less guards on mobile patrol in the area.
“Gardai in Ballyconnell are well trained, totally committed, they want to be on patrol,” he told about 200 people at the meeting organised by West Cavan Concerned Residents. The station closed does not mean there are no members out there. Since August 3 there have been mobile patrols out at night and the only feasible way of doing this was to reduce opening hours.”
There is a plan to implement a phone contact system within the patrol cars. Last week a bookmakers in the town was robbed, then a car was stolen from the area and later discovered burned out in Cavan town. It took Gardai 27 minutes to respond.
“The the station was closed due to the reduced hours,” explained Superintendent Coen.
“Guards were out on patrol and came along a burglary in the area where a ride-on mower had been moved to the top of a road, the person took to the fields and they went after him, two other cars from Cavan came to assist, the helicopter unit was requested but was not able to travel and while on that call they got a call about Ballyconnell. That investigation is active and ongoing,” he said.
Gary McKiernan, who chaired the meeting, said the community was meeting to “challenge the decision” which he said had “come as a huge shock” to the area. “Do we not deserve to feel safe, secure and protected by An Garda Síochána?” he asked. The rural station covers the west of Cavan, everywhere from Blacklion to Swanlinbar to Belturbet to Ballyconnell and every byroad in between, and the land Border that runs alongside counties Fermanagh, Tyrone and Armagh in Northern Ireland.
At Ballyconnell station there is one sergeant and 14 guards while in Belturbet there is one sergeant and four guards and in Blacklion there is one sergeant and two guards. Superintendent Coen reiterated that he wants to see mobile patrols in the area “because criminals won’t care if we are sitting in the station,” he said.