Residents call for visible Garda presence in the Castletroy/Annacotty area as they wait for a Garda station in the area.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has approved funding for a new Garda station in the Castletroy/Annacotty area in the An Garda Síochána Capital Plan for 2025-2030 – after much public outcry.
The Office of Public Works (OPW) is now tasked with locating a site for the station.
Valentina Vilkele, a mother of three in Annacotty, is happy with the commitment of a Garda station, but her immediate reaction of the news was to “laugh about that.” She says: “it will take a few years for them to actually come through with this plan.”
In August, Mrs. Vilkele’s twin boys of 14 years old, one of which has special needs, was threatened with violence in Castletroy Neighbourhood Park. She followed up with a report to Gardaí in the Henry Street station, but the family still faces distress from the incidence.
Vilkele says: “I’m afraid for my kids when they go out and about, like the cinema or to McDonald’s, or to the playground to play basketball.”
Mrs. Vilkele wants “something done straight away” to address anti-social behaviour. She believes that more Garda presence will act as a deterrence, but also urges the community to be more proactive in looking out for one another.
She added: “This mentality of minding their own business, it’s not quite right… if there is a child in distress on the playground, I think it should be every adult’s duty to go and help.”
Retaining Community Gardaí until the Garda station is built would be helpful in Mrs. Vilkele’s view. “When you had those Gardaí around, you at least felt that if something was wrong, or if there were the wrong people in your neighbourhood, that you could just give them a call and they would be over in a few minutes,” the concerned mother added.
Chairman of Plassey Residents Association Rory Wilkinson says that anti-social behaviour can take many forms: “For me, if somebody just decides to park illegally in front of somebody’s drive or to completely block a road, I think it is very narcissistic behaviour.”
On the news of a Garda station, Mr. Wilkinson says it is “definitely welcome” and has been “needed for a good 10 years.” He hopes this will result in better response times.
He added: “I’ve always wanted more Garda presence in around Castletroy because just them being around is already going to be a massive help straight away.”
However, the chairman says he isn’t too hopeful for this presence because of the government’s lack of funding for the Gardaí. “It’s difficult at the moment, because our government, unfortunately, has decided not to spend, and cut finances to a lot of public services,” Wilkinson commented.
A resident of Elm Park for “many years” who wishes to remain anonymous for privacy and protection, stated: “we can’t wait several years to feel secure.”
With the withdrawal of Community Gardaí in the Castletroy area, the resident says: “We are solely at the mercy of each other… that’s all we can do. We are kind of patrolling our area ourselves.”
Cameras and Community Gardaí can make a difference. The resident recalls how “brilliant” and efficient Gardaí were in the area: “You just had to tell them where there was a problem… and they looked after it and that was the end of it.”
The resident says that the news of a Garda station is like “winning the 7 million tonight on the lottery,” but until then, “those years are going to be quite frightening for the rest of us.”
University of Limerick Chaplain Father John Campion says there is a sense of fear in the community. He recalls anti-social behaviour in UL over the summer particularly with the use of scramblers by adolescents.
Father Campion says that along the riverbank of campus, youths were “intimidating” locals and tourists alike. “A few weeks ago, I went for a cycle. I had to jump off my bike into the ditch… they were coming on these scramblers and just took over the place.”
He added: “You could write a book about the amount of stolen bikes in the college.”
Fianna Fáil Councillor Joe Pond says, “we need a Garda station now,” adding that he thinks one should be in place temporarily until a permanent station is built.
Cllr Pond stated: “In the interim, I would think there are enough vacant buildings around the area that we could house the Garda station into temporarily.”
In running the Senior Citizens Alert Group, he says that elderly people are now using their panic alarm system because of the “fear of crime.”
In Cllr Pond’s view, funding for the Gardaí has not been proportional to the growth of Castletroy as one of the fastest growing suburbs in Ireland: “They’re just not resourced enough. I’m not blaming the Gardaí. They’re doing a fantastic job, they’re doing the best they can.
“But, without a Garda presence out here, I think we’re lost here with the building explosion and the amount of people moving in.”
He concluded: “Waiting three or four years to build one is not a runner. If we can’t get Gardaí out here on the beat – on foot, bike patrol, in cars, like we might as well have no petition.”
Aontú education spokesperson Eric Nelligan says: “There’s nothing worse in the justice system than seeing things delayed.
“It’s great having the promise of a Garda station, but as we know, infrastructure projects in this country take a long time to come to fruition.”
For the time being, Mr. Nelligan states: “We need a regular Garda presence for the benefit of students, residents, and commuters… And while it will be great in five or 10 years if we get a Garda station, we don’t have one now.”
Labour councillor Elena Secas has requested the OPW to consider vacant buildings in the Castletroy area for a Garda office. She said: “A Garda office is quite achievable. I’m sure we can identify the vacant building in the area that could serve as a Garda office until a Garda station is provided.”
Cllr Secas has been making representations for the new Garda station plans to be sped up and for a Garda office to be provided in the area meanwhile.
She stated: “Anti-social behaviour is a big concern in the area, so we need something to happen sooner rather than later.”
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