I am a regular attender of the Balbriggan Community Policing Forum and was at the most recent meeting on December 2nd. As always it struck me during and after the meeting what crucial and useful forum they are. These are open public meetings where anyone can question the most senior local Gardai and Council officials on issues of concern.
They are one of the few truly transparent and democratic methods of keeping the Council and the Gardai accountable. Of course both the Council and the Gardai also get great value from the meetings as it allows them to get directly in touch with the public in a way that is not usually possible. There are always very frank and open discussions at the forum and I don’t think anyone leaves these forums without learning something. In particular they offer reassurance to the public that there is ongoing co-operative efforts by the Gardai and Council to tackle issues of public concern such as anti-social behaviour.
These forums offer an invaluable resource to the communities they serve. The decision to cut the forums betrays an absolute lack of understanding of their value to people. This is a shutting down of the people’s voice and a blow to true local democracy and accountability. This decision has also made it clear that the government’s plans for local government reform are solely about cost saving. All the talk in ‘Putting People First’ – the reform plan for local government, is just that, talk. Here we have a model example of community-government engagement at local level and rather than replicate it for different areas or different issues it is being abolished.
I am vehemently opposed to this move. I want to promote more models of community-government engagement in order to make local government more transparent and accountable.
The Green Party representative for Swords, Ken Duffy stated that
At a time when certain types of crimes are on the increase and Garda resources are stretched to their limits, it is unbelievable and utter madness to scrap the Swords and Balbriggan Community Policing Forums. The forums have always been an arena for people to express their fears and concerns directly to those working on the coalface. This news will come as a shock to people and would be one more nail in the coffin of local democracy.
at 087-9608540 and Ken Duffy at 086-6008313