13 October 2008

Arson Attacks on Garda Stations

A Garda station in southern Connemara was extensively damaged in a suspected arson attack. The fire at Carna Garda station (photo left) in Co. Galway broke out at around 10 p.m. last night.
About two weeks ago windows of the same station had been smashed during the night, but no further damage was done at that time. There were also some other acts of vandalism reported in the area in recent weeks.

Only five days ago the Garda station of Blarney (photo right) in Co. Cork was also badly damaged by another fire.
are now attempting to establish a motive for both attacks, but it is not suspected that they are connected.

Arson attacks on Garda stations are fortunately not occurring frequently in Ireland, but there has been a considerable number of such crimes in recent years.

Last year, on March 22nd, 2007, an arson attack was made on the Garda station at Bandon, in the west of Co. Cork. A man walked into the public office of the station at 11 p.m. with a petrol bomb. The spreading fire was quickly extinguished by Gardaí, but there was smoke damage to the floor and walls. A person who had been in the foyer during the attack was treated in hospital as a precaution.

Three years ago the Garda station in Littleton, Co. Tipperary was target of not one but two arson attcks within the short span of 13 weeks. The first took place on July 25th, 2005 and - just as the station had been repaired and refurbished again - a second occurred on November 2nd, 2005.

Six weeks before the first attack at Littleton, in the morning of June 14th, 2005, five petrol bombs were thrown at Blackrock Garda station in Cork city. Two Gardaí, who were in the station at the time, managed to extinguish the fires. There were no injuries and - apart fom burn marks on the outer walls (photo above) - no damage was done to the building.

May 3rd, 2004 the Garda station at Carrigbyrne in Co. Wexford was extensively damaged by another serious act of arson.

In the night to Saturday, May 31st, 2003 a 19-year-old woman started at fire at Tallaght Garda station on the outskirts of Dublin.

On February 28th, 2002 a 28-year-old alcoholic from Finglas walked into Ballymun Garda station in Dublin, claiming his brother was missing. He then poured petrol, which he had with him, on the floor of the station's public area and set it alight. The Garda in charge on the night reacted quickly and put the fire out himself, so only € 1000 damage was done in this attack. The man was arrested and on June 19th, 2003 sentenced to three years imprisonment.

The most serious arson attack on Gardaí took place on Wednesday, July 21st, 1999 at Tallaght Garda station. A man entered the station at around a quarter to five in the morning, carrying petrol and some flares. He went into the public office, where the Sergeant and several other Gardaí were on duty, and set it on fire. Then he escaped in a white Ford Sierra car. Extensive damage was done to the station and tragically Sergeant Andrew Callanan, a 36-year-old married man and father of three small children, died from severe burns later in hospital. Several other Gardaí were injured in this outrageous attack.

On April 19th, 1999 another Garda station, this time in Edenderry, Co. Offaly, was set alight in the early hours of the morning. The Sergeant's office was completely gutted and some damage was done to the public office. A Garda patrol car, which was parked at the rear of the station, was burnt-out in the blaze (photo above right), while a second car, owned by a civilian, was also partially damaged.

One wonders why Garda stations around the country are not better protected against such attacks. But then again, many of the stations that suffered arson attacks are in rural areas and not manned around the clock. There is only a Garda present for several hours a day, but never at night. And some smaller rural stations are entirely unattended by now. All they provide for the public is an intercom connection to the next manned station, which is often many miles away.

As a historian I can only reflect on the lessons one can learn about this from history. Whenever the State withdraws its visible presence - which is usually the police - from a local community, it leads to two things: Alienation of people from the State and reduction of their respect for government and authorities; and an increase in crime, vandalism and unsavoury behaviour.

Maybe it is time for the Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern (photo above left) and Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy (photo right) to have a closer look at their general strategic policing principles and in particular at the deployment pattern of the Garda Síochána around the country.

The Emerald Islander


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Peashooter said...

Yes, you wonder why people do such things. There may be some people with a personal grudge against the local Gardai, but in most cases it is probably not more than stupid vandalism, often infused by alcohol.
We have way too many people abusing alcohol in Ireland, and they are always dealt with very leniently. If I were a judge, I would increase a sentence for a crime committed under the influence of alcohol. But as it is, drunkenness always get the culprit "diminished responsibility", so they get away with milder sentences. That's very wrong, and as long as we stick to that attitude, there will always be such idiotic acts of vandalism.

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