A public meeting in County Meath is set to hear that Ireland is in the midst of a “crime and antisocial behaviour spiral” at present, with many people “in fear” in their towns and cities, not just at night, but also during the day.
The public meeting, organised by the Safer Meath Campaign and TD Peadar Tóibín will take place on Monday 25th September in Navan, Meath. Mr Tóibín said the meeting would be key in addressing issues facing people in their communities at present, as he pointed to a violent incident last week involving a construction worker.
“Ireland is experiencing a crime and antisocial behaviour spiral currently,” the Meath West TD said. “Many citizens are in fear in towns and cities, not just at night time, but even in the middle of the day. In my home town just last week construction workers going about their everyday work were attacked by men with a hammer and with a shovel in the middle of the day.”
The incident, which was captured on video and uploaded to social media, took place on Trimgate Street in Navan, where construction work was underway on the side of the road.
Footage of the daylight brawl showed two men confronting builders, before things turned violent – with the two men producing a shovel, with one swinging a hammer.
Online, the footage was branded “disgraceful” – with people coming to the defence of the builders, who many said were right to fight back.
Don’t mess with builders in Navan pic.twitter.com/9Vq65DS4z1
— Cllr Pio Smith (@CllrPioSmith) September 14, 2023
Mr Tóibín said he has also noticed restaurants in towns throughout Meath closing earlier in the evenings for fear of attacks and violence.
“Children are being mugged for money and their phones on the way home from school. Lanes off main streets are off limits due to open drinking and drug taking,” he added.
“Communities, especially in working class areas feel under siege due to the increase in crime and anti-social behaviour. Sexual assault has doubled in 10 years. Rape has doubled in 10 years. Serious unprovoked attacks are now commonplace”.
He said despite huge societal problems, the crisis “did not feature at all” on the government’s radar until recently. He pointed to a reduction in the number of Gardaí as being a major issue in tackling crime.
“Every year that Helen McEntee has been the Minister for Justice, the number of Gardaí has fallen. Indeed, we have one of the lowest numbers of police per capita in EU. In Meath we have by far the least amount of Gardaí per capita. Every year hundreds of Garda are being attacked. Every year hundreds of Gardaí are resigning and retiring. Garda morale is on the floor. Recruitment to Templemore has collapsed,” he said.
The Aontu leader said that it was reported to him that last Saturday night, there were only four Garda on duty in the whole of the Navan area.
“This despite hundreds of inebriated people congregating outside of pubs and nightclubs with numerous fights breaking out,” he said.
“I have also been told that from Enfield to Clonard to Athboy, a massive geographic area, on a Sunday, there can be only five Gardaí on duty. This means if there is an arrest, there are only three Gardaí available in Garda stations to answer calls. I have been told that in a Dublin Garda station there can be up to 500 calls waiting to be answered by Gardaí at any one time. The system is breaking down at a fierce rate”.
The TD said he feels that Justice Minister Helen McEntee, who is from Meath, has been “distracted by the culture wars.”
“When communities have been crying out for more Gardaí, more residential drug rehabilitation, more community supports to help young people stay on the straight and narrow, Helen McEntee has remained focused on bills such as the Hate Speech Bill, that appeal to the political, media and NGO bubble but not struggling communities.
“I have invited the Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Justice to attend next week’s meeting and I am yet to get word as to their plans,” he said, adding: “This is an issue of serious concern. It will be a big meeting. The Minister and the Commissioner should attend.”
Over the summer, hundreds of people signed a petition demanding action for a “safer Meath.” The petition, launched by the campaign, highlighted how Meath has the highest number of burglaries in the country.
The county saw the highest rise in burglaries in Ireland last year, compared to any other county, recording a 34 per cent increase. That compared to a 10 per cent increase in burglaries nationwide in 2022.