by Louise Doyle
A NEW drugs unit for the Donegal Division currently under consideration as part of a major overhaul of the county’s policing will give gardaí more resources to double down on crime.
That’s according to Superintendent of Letterkenny District Goretti Sheridan, who said gardaí in the county are tackling a very challenging landscape in terms of drug crime. Earlier this week, An Garda Síochána conducted an interagency search operation in conjunction with the Health Products Regulatory Authority in Letterkenny. Three vehicles and two properties were searched under warrant in the course of this operation targeting the sale and supply of controlled drugs, resulting in the seizure of €3,000 worth of drugs seized.
Last month packages thought to contain 60kg of cocaine worth €4m were washed up on Ballyhiernan Beach in Fanad and Tramore Beach in Dunfanaghy.
Speaking to the Donegal News this week, Supt. Sheridan said the challenge of tackling drug crime is mirrored with how some drugs have become much more readily accessible.
“Drugs are a huge issue in every town and city in the country, and Letterkenny and the wider Donegal is no different. Donegal is unique, it borders with Northern Ireland and that is an extreme challenge for us.
“Years ago, the likes of cocaine was seen as a rich man’s drug but it is now seen as more accessible. It is no longer seen as an affluent drug. At the minute we are in the process of formalising a drug unit for County Donegal. The competition is ongoing.”
In the last week there have been 14 reported assaults, 23 thefts and 16 domestic violence calls reported in Donegal. Supt. Sheridan said the decision to shelve plans to amalgamate Donegal Garda Division with Leitrim and Sligo was the right decision. The implementation of the Garda Operating Model, launched in 2019, had planned to combine Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim into one ‘super division’. But plans were halted following an organisational review into the impact of the restructuring of the division.
“The decision to continue the garda division as a standalone was the right one. An assessment was carried out and the outcome was the best one, given out outlining as a vast county and one which borders Northern Ireland and has a substantial coastline. It was the right decision.”
Asked about gardaí recruitment and resources, Supt. Sheridan likened the busyness of Letterkenny district to that of her first posting at Shankill Station in Dublin.
“The Letterkenny garda district is massive, taking in a vast area including Newtowncunningham, Carrigans and Lifford. It is a large district and a very busy district and I would compare its busyness to my time working in Tallaght.
“We have to work with the garda resources we have. We have five student guards in the county at the minute. Recruitment is an issue across the board at the minute. If you look at Dublin Bus, Tusla and so on, everywhere is looking for staff. When I joined the gardaí it was seen as a job for life, but that is not the mindset among young people nowadays. People shift jobs throughout their working career more than they did. I would urge anyone young man or woman considering a career with the guards to give it consideration, it will be interesting.”
Supt. Sheridan said Donegal leads the way on tackling domestic violence.
“I really think Donegal leads out on this in terms of how gardaí work with other stakeholders in a joined up way to tackle this issue head on.
“We have those difficult conversations, and in doing that we are de-stigmatising it. We would never pressurise anyone into making a formal complaint but we have a very good working relationship with various inter-agencies and charities, and supports are in place to help victims of domestic violence. This is best practice in operation.”
Poignantly, yesterday marked Supt. Sheridan’s 30th year in the force.
The Rathmullan woman joined An Garda Síochána on August 23, 1993. She spent nine years as a sergeant before being made an inspector in Letterkenny in 2013. She was promoted to the rank of Superintendent six years later. After a time in Castlerea, Supt. Sheridan returned to Donegal to take up a role in Buncrana District.. She returned to Letterkenny in January of this year following the retirement of Supt. Michael Finan.
Supt. Sheridan says she has experienced many highs and lows during her tenure in the force, including the tragic loss of colleagues.
“My job comes with its ups and downs. I was based in Castlerea when Garda Colm Horkan was murdered. My best friend in the gardaí, Deirdre Finn died in a boating accident in Carrick-on-Shannon two weeks ago. We trained together and she had been planning to retire. Those are the ebbs and flows.”