NEW CRIME FLEET HAS NO GARDAI TO DRIVE IT; Government is slammed over [euro]5.3m cars spend.
Byline: ADELINA CAMPOS
THE Government was slammed yesterday for buying a new fleet of garda cars with "nobody to drive them".
Activists from the Save Our Local Community group have warned the Justice Department's plan to wage war on rural crime is inadequate.
The comments came as Minister Frances Fitzgerald announced the Government will fork out [euro]5.3million on 260 high-powered vehicles between now and the end of the year.
Save Our Local Community spokesman John Tully said: "There are Garda stations at the moment in Kilkenny, in Thurles, in Limerick and they have new cars sitting in their car parks - and there is nobody to drive them.
"They're saying they're bringing on [more than] 200 new cars - who is going to drive them?
"That will be the first question I would like to know. I do appreciate what Frances Fitzgerald is doing, she is doing a reasonably good job, but there's a lot more to be done."
He added the Government would have to increase its budget dedicated to paying garda overtime if it wants the vehicles to be manned.
This investment is part of a [euro]46million package to renew the garda fleet by 2021.
The Government announced it would buy a number of different vehicles including marked and unmarked patrol cars, motorcycles and vans. Ms Fitzgerald said: "This investment will support gardai to carry out more visible and responsive patrols of motorways and rural communities, increased surveillance of criminal gangs and enhanced night-time public order policing in our cities and provincial towns.
"In total, this Government will have invested over [euro]34million in new garda vehicles since 2012.
"This marks a massive increase on the [euro]4.8million provided for by the previous Government in Budgets 2009 to 2011."
Surveillance officers are expected to get BMWs while Audi Q7 SUVs are said to have been specially commissioned for the armed Emergency Response Unit.
The four-wheel drives will be kitted out with special compartments to fit assault rifles and handguns. The Number of vehicles to for gardai l os e vehicles will be used in areas that might require a quick response from gardai such as high-speed pursuits.
But Mr Tully challenged the choice of these vehicles.
Speaking to Sean O'Rourke on RTE Radio One, he said: "Audi cars are great cars but what good are they when you have thugs driving jeeps that will ram you from one side of the car to another? "We need to be getting high-powered jeeps, possibly something like [in] the North "These guys are professionals. They'll run you down."
Mr Tully's organisation hit the headlines earlier this month after it attracted 3,000 people to a meeting in Thurles, Co Tipperary, aimed at tackling rural crime.
Up to 600 gardai will be recruited next year as part of the Government's Capital Plan 2016-2021.
HIGH-POWERED be purchased end of year email@example.com
ta 260 Number of high-powered vehicles to be purchased for gardai by end of year
HIGH-POWERED How Audi Q7 SUV would look as garda vehicle