The pay deal struck between the Department of Justice and the Garda Representative Association last weekend will have a significant effect on combatting crime in rural areas of Clare, according to Fine Gael TD Joe Carey.

Deputy Carey said that the agreement, which is likely to be accepted by rank and file Gardaí in the coming weeks, will bring significant flexibility to the number of extra hours that can be allocated to policing rural areas of the county.

“Along with the latest Garda recruitment drive, the extended working hours will add to the effectiveness of the force in tackling the gangs that have terrorised older people living in isolated areas.

“This will strengthen the Garda presence in the areas that really matter and allow them to get out into the communities rather than confined to clerical duties in Garda Stations,” the Clare TD said.

“Clare Garda Chief Superintendent John Kerin clearly stated at a public meeting of the Joint Policing Committee (JPC) that the closure of rural Garda stations hadn’t led to more crime in those areas and most of the increases in crime were in locations where Garda Stations remained open.

“He also emphasised that Garda statistics showed that there was no evidence of an increase in burglaries due to the closure of stations.

“The Chief Superintendent said that he wanted to see Gardaí out and about, manning  checkpoints, being visible and talking to people, rather than sitting in Garda stations. This is also a significant element of the Government’s strategy in tackling rural crime” Deputy Carey added.

Only last week it was confirmed that funding for the Community alert programme has been doubled to €350,000 and now incorporates a new €100,000 rebate scheme for local groups registered under the Garda text alert scheme.

According to Deputy Carey, the concentration on rural crime is the latest in a series of initiatives that the Government has introduced to bring the benefits of the economic recovery to areas that suffered most from the downturn.

“Over recent weeks, the Government has announced a €5 million allocation to the Rural Economic Development Zones (REDZ) initiative to stimulate economic development in rural towns and their hinterlands.

“More €400,000 was allocated to rural recreation schemes in the county with Clare securing the second highest allocation of the 20 counties included in the €4.5 million programme.

“Only last month, €10 million was made available to local authorities this year to support the revitalisation of rural towns and villages and I am determined that Clare County Council will be in prime position to gain maximum benefit from this scheme”, he said.