Up to 30 concerned business owners and representatives met at a private meeting in Galway city this week to discuss crime and policing issues in the city centre.
Members of Galway Business Watch are seeking a meeting with Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, next month to appeal for improved allocation of Garda resources in response to highly publicised street violence earlier this month.
Viral online images of street brawling and a car driven at speed at a group of people in a Galway city carpark has focused national political and media attention on Galway.
The informal group has not met in seven years, and according to organiser Dave Greeley, this is an indication of how safe Galway’s streets really are.
“We’re interested in crime prevention. The last time we met we came up with simple suggestions for the council and gardaí to reduce street drinking in the city. Basic stuff like moving a bin or removing ledges where people congregate,” says Mr Greeley of Tempo Antiques on Cross Street.
Mr Greeley appealed to business representatives to log all incidents with an Garda, as it is this information which will facilitate local police chiefs to make a business case to the Garda Commissioner for more resources. His call was echoed by retailer and Labour city councillor Níall McNelis, who pointed out that gardaí need facts from the ground rather than knee-jerk reaction to images shared on the internet.
“Whoever put the videos out of [people fighting in the streets] should be ashamed. Call the guards. I heard of a hotelier who lost 60 bookings last weekend because a video was shared claiming there will be trouble near his premises. The video was 18 months old. There is no ‘feud’ consuming Galway. There are people fighting about other issues, and the guards are making arrests,” he said.
Cllr McNelis, chair of the City Council’s Justice and Policing Committee, welcomed Galway Business Watch as a new participant in a JPC subcommittee.
The days of phoning Mill Street barracks are gone, says Mr Greeley. Everything must be logged through 999 calls which are directed through Garda divisional HQ in Murrough, Renmore.
“This is an excellent system for collating statistics for Garda management to make a case for extra resources for Galway, but the reality of Garda cars travelling into the city and returning to Renmore in heavy traffic without blue lights sucks up valuable time and resources,” the meeting heard.
Mr Greeley explained that up to 36 gardaí are stationed in the divisional comms room, overseeing an area from Donegal to Dundalk and Galway.
Attendees voiced disquiet that only four of Galway City’s 18 councillors responded to a previous invitation to meet Galway Business Watch recently, and that all of Galway West’s TDs were unable to attend due to Dáil commitments.
Avril Smith, Eyre Square Shopping Centre manager, is vice chair of Galway Business Watch.
“Ironically the incidents of the last two weeks have benefitted us as now we have the opportunity to meet the Gardai and help improve the service,” she said, adding that her association will be assisting businesses to log incidents via an Garda’s established Online Crime Reporting Declaration service at www.garda.ie