STRONG claims that violent assaults in Letterkenny are becoming a common occurrence have prompted a call for the Garda Commissioner to revisit the allocation of just one newly attested Garda to Donegal.
Inside 24 hours on Tuesday, two serious altercations occurred in Letterkenny town centre.
Once again, there have been calls for an increased Garda presence in the town.
Meanwhile, one local resident has told the Donegal News that there is now a nervousness among local people living in the Lower Main Street area.
The latest incidents began at around 5.45pm on Tuesday when two males were observed involved in an altercation on the Pearse Road.
The incident, which happened in broad daylight, was observed by many local people and caused a delay as traffic has to swerve to avoid the two men.
Just hours later, Gardaí were called to a public order incident and alleged assault that occurred at an address at Lower Main Street, Letterkenny.
At approximately 9pm, Gardaí attended the scene following reports of an altercation involving a number of individuals.
One man in his 20’s was arrested at the scene and detained at a Garda station.
A male in his late 20’s and another in his late 40’s attended Letterkenny University Hospital with injuries believed to be non-life-threatening.
The scene was preserved for technical examination and Gardaí said investigations are ongoing.
These incidents are just two of many that have occurred in the town recently with the Lower Main Street area particularly affected.
One man who lives close to Lower Main Street said there’s a nervousness among local residents. He said some people feel that it’s almost safer to be out and about during the evening time because there are so many incidents during the day.
“But I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that,” he said.
“I’m not easily frightened myself, but it’s got to the stage now that I wouldn’t walk down the town on my own at night time.
“The Gardaí are well aware of what’s going on, and we could do with a great Garda presence around the town.”
Paddy Delap, who runs Clarke’s Newsagents on Lower Main Street, said that part of the town has been experiencing problems for a long time.
“I spoke before about the number of derelict buildings at Lower Main Street and the fact that when you have empty premises, it can attract the wrong sort of people.
“There are elderly residents living along Lower Main Street and these problems are happening far too frequently now. Something needs to be done.
“Extra Gardaí on the street would definitely be welcome and it would be a big help,” said Mr Delap.
Meanwhile, Cllr Gerry McMonagle said these incidents further highlight the need for additional Garda resources after just one new Garda was assigned to Donegal last week.
“Unfortunately these violent incidents seem to be becoming a common occurrence in Letterkenny, and in some cases, in the middle of the day.
“We need to be giving Gardaí all the support we can, but that has to start with the Commissioner.
“Out of the 87 Gardaí who passed out last week, we only received one new Garda which is a kick in the teeth to local Gardaí.
“I have written to the Garda Commissioner in relation to the Garda numbers in the county and the rising incidence of violent crime and asked for extra resources but this has not yet been forthcoming.”
He said these incidents have been causing fear among local people, and there is concern some people may start to avoid the town.
Cllr McMonagle added, “There is concern these incidents will act as a deterrent to people coming to the town to shop and enjoy what Letterkenny has to offer.
“It might seem like a small number of incidents but the rising numbers we are seeing recently are a cause for concern and we will need to stamp this out. The only way we will do this is by having a heavier and more visible Garda presence,” said Cllr McMonagle.
The Sinn Féin councillor also believes more CCTV would also act as a deterrent for perpetrators but will also help catch those responsible for these incidents.
“Extra CCTV is a no brainer. It will not stop these attacks but it will give Gardaí necessary evidence to prosecute the offenders and bring them to court,” said Cllr McMonagle.
The call for extra resources comes at a time when the Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, is planning to streamline Garda divisions and is proposing amalgamating Donegal with Sligo and Leitrim. However, Cllr Michael Mc Bride believes that the confidence of the general public will be lost if Donegal is downgraded from a stand alone division.
He said, “The Gardaí are struggling to increase numbers on the ground and we have struggled in Donegal for many years now as special units have been established to deal with specific aspects of crime which is important but it has left the numbers in rural areas light on the ground.
“This severely impacts on the delivery of rural services to the public which has been brought to my attention on multiple occasions as a public representative.
“I am asking Commissioner Drew Harris to leave Donegal as a stand alone Garda division similar to Kerry as I believe it will serve the people of Donegal best for many years to come,” said Cllr McBride.