Delivery of community CCTV schemes, a more visible garda presence and tougher laws on bail, legal aid and trespassing are needed to combat rural crime, according to a motion introduced by Tipperary independent TD Mattie McGrath on behalf of the Rural Independent Alliance .
All opposition parties supported the initiative put forward in the Dáil on Tuesday night, with most speakers highlighting poor deployment of CCTV networks promised in the Programme for Government.
While the motion stated that only four communities had received approval to deploy CCTV since 2017, Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality David Stanton corrected this, saying 20 grant applications were now approved.
The scheme is too difficult for local communities to operate and implement
However, Fianna Fáil TD for Cork south west Margaret Murphy O'Mahony pointed out that only €430,000 was spent out of the €2m available for the scheme.
"It is stil the case that the CCTV scheme that was rolled out many years ago by the Government is being under-utilised, in particular because the scheme is too difficult for local communities to operate and implement," said Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Jim O'Callaghan.
Several TDs also urged the Government to install CCTV cameras with number plate recognition on motorways and bridges to monitor criminal gang movements.
Trespassing law under review
On trespassing, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said the law is "under constant review" and agreed to engage with TDs on the issue, but argued that existing legislation is "robust". Kildare south Fianna Fáil TD Fiona O'Loughlin said: "There appears to be some correlation throughout the country, in particular in counties close to Dublin which contain rural areas, between people coming to hunt and stalk and robberies happening at a later stage."
A number of TDs also highlighted cases of crimes committed by repeat offenders on bail, with ministers saying that recent legislation has made it easier for judges to refuse bail.
Government to tighten legal aid
Several speakers also criticised the cost of legal aid for repeat criminals. While Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration David Stanton said legal aid is essential to ensure prosecution can happen without claims of an unfair trial, he added that his department was preparing a bill to introduce more rigorous means testing.
Most speakers called for a more visible garda presence in rural areas, but Minister Flanagan said this was the responsibility of the Garda commissioner.
The Dáil is scheduled to vote on the motion on Thursday.
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