1 February 2013 No Comments by The Northern Standard

The appalling murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe has had a profound impact upon the nation.
The deaths by violence of members of the Gardaí carrying out their duties have been mercifully rare in this country and the uncommon nature of this crime, as well as the particular brutality with which it was carried out, are partial explanations of why it has dominated public discourse, and is likely to do so for some time to come.
There is also in the public reaction a communication of the deep value we place upon the work carried out by our police force, an earnestness to convey the esteem and admiration those who assume this duty in society have earned for the service they perform.
It is important at this immediate time that there is unanimity of sympathy with Detective Garda Donohoe’s family and with the Garda Síochána force, and of solidarity with them in days of great difficulty and strain.
But so grave is this incident that it surely deserves a more active societal response in the times to come.
Aspects of it give grim prescience to some of the content of the debate at the recent meeting of the Co Monaghan Joint Policing Committee, the proceedings of which were reported in our last issue.
At that meeting concern among local communities about the activities of organised criminal gangs operating along the Border was debated at some length.
While the fear and frustration of people living under the shadow of such activity was to the forefront of the discussion, contributors also acknowledged the great jurisdictional and investigative difficulties confronting the Gardaí and the Police Service of Northern Ireland in responding to such crime.
With the trend of the investigation into the murder of Detective Garda Donohoe strongly indicating the involvement of a cross-Border gang, the operational challenges confronting the two policing bodies on this island have come into heightened focus.
The ease with which criminals with local knowledge can exploit the multiplicity of Border roads and the existence of separate policing jurisdictions can surely no longer be tolerated as an inevitable fact of life in a frontier area.
As the situation stands, co-operation between the police forces, which has undoubtedly improved in recent times, can only go so far. For the safety and security of people in the Border area, it is not far enough.
There now seems a compelling urgency on the Depts of Justice here and in Northern Ireland to enter into discussions on how the impediments to curbing the activities of cross-Border criminals can be overcome.
Whatever proposals might emerge from such an engagement, the uncomfortable truth remains that such criminality will never be eradicated without the stripping away of the cloak of silence in which it is often veiled.
It must be a source of almost unbearable frustration for those investigating the murder of Detective Garda Donohoe to know that there are people in possession of the information that would bring those responsible to justice but who are unwilling to come forward with it because of fear, intimidation or adherence to some perverse code of loyalty.
This omerta is deeply ingrained in the communities that provide a haven for organised criminals and paramilitary dissidents.
It is a further advantage that murderers, bank robbers, drug dealers, fuel launderers and their ilk enjoy over the forces of law and order, one that allows them to exercise a subversive tyranny that spreads a poison through the bloodstream of many local communities.
Only the naïve would expect that public outrage, even to such an extent as the murder of Detective Garda Donohoe has engendered, will be sufficient to embolden someone to tear away the cloak of secrecy and silence – but until the communities that harbour, however unwillingly, such dangerous criminal elements can summon the unity of will that will banish them from their midst, the security of our society will continue to suffer, and the promise of peace held out by the political and social progress of recent years will prove an unrealised one.
At what is still a time of mourning, it seems insensitive to assign increased pertinence to the ongoing debates about reductions in the resources at the disposal of the Gardaí.
However, it would be to ignore a distinct feeling in the public and social realm not to editorially observe that the undoubtedly sincere feelings of revulsion at the killing of Detective Garda Donohoe, and of determination that those responsible will be apprehended, that have been expressed by officers of the Government rest somewhat uneasily beside their previously uttered assurances that measures such as the closure of Garda Stations and the reduction in the numbers of Garda personnel will have no adverse impact on the level of security in this country.
There is of course no direct correlation to be drawn between the appalling crime that took place in Co Louth and political decisions made by the Government on policing resources.
More generally, however, the sense of protection from crime in the communities which have seen a Garda presence removed from their midst has been greatly diminished by the actions of the Government in this regard, and will not be reinforced by the statistics-based reassurances traditionally trotted out to allay the public’s concerns.
The sense of fear and vulnerability prevalent in many areas, particularly in the rural parts, may not always have firm foundation, but it exists nonetheless – and it has become accentuated by every incident of break-in, robbery and other crime that does occur.
The fear of crime that has taken root in the minds of those who perceive themselves vulnerable to it is a very real social problem of our times. It needs to be addressed.

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