McNamara challenges Senator Ahearn over Dáil vote comments

Clare Independent TD Michael McNamara has described Senator Garret Ahearn’s criticism of Independent TDs who yesterday voted No Confidence in Justice Minister Helen McEntee as “facetious” and “surprising”.

Deputy McNamara has responded by suggesting that the Tipperary-based Senator is “opting to ignore the depletion in numbers of Gardaí in Tipperary merely for advancement within his own party.”

“The Garda numbers in the Clare/Tipperary Division have fallen considerably during Helen McEntee’s term of office and I am surprised that Senator Ahearn has no issue with the resultant increase in antisocial behaviour in towns like Clonmel and Ennis,” added Deputy McNamara.

Figures released by the Department of Justice in response to a Parliamentary Question by Deputy McNamara reveal that the number of serving Gardaí in the Clare and Tipperary Garda Division dropped from 727 in November 2020 to 674 in November 2023, while numbers nationally decreased by almost 4,000 to 13,940 in the three years to November 2023.

“Senator Ahearn’s comments are facetious and bely the situation faced by communities across rural Ireland that have witnessed the closure of Garda stations and an overall decrease in the number of serving Gardaí,” explained Deputy McNamara. “It comes as a great surprise to me that any politician aspiring to represent Tipperary would be happy with the depleted numbers of Gardaí serving in the Clare and Tipperary Garda Division.”

Speaking during yesterday’s Motion of No Confidence in Helen McEntee, Deputy McNamara said, “There is much about personalities and criticism of people’s personalities on both sides of this House. For me, this is not about personalities at all, for what it is worth. The Minister is a fine person and a relatively competent politician. There must, though, be political accountability in this House, in this democracy. This must be the case for health services and security services. Unfortunately, there are fewer gardaí in the State now. The total is a little under 14,000 now, while there was a little under 18,000 at the start of this Dáil term.”

“Of those gardaí, they are spending more time behind computers. That is annoying them, and they are losing confidence in their Garda management,” he continued. “We might ask what that has to do with the Minister. It is the role of the Government to put management in place in the health service or An Garda Síochána that is able and resourced to do the job. It is very clear from the views, responses and votes of rank and file gardaí, with regard to the GRA, that they do not have confidence. The problem is resources or Garda management. Either way, that becomes the Minister’s problem because she is the one who is accountable to the House for that.”

Deputy McNamara added, “I regret not being able to express confidence in the Minister. I hope she will recruit a lot more gardaí and develop systems whereby they have more time on the beat and are not tied up as much behind their desks. All I can go on is what I am seeing and hearing in my constituency. The lack of gardaí on the beat is resulting in increasing antisocial behaviour not just on the streets of Dublin but on the streets of Ennis. That is a problem because people now expect gardaí to be transferred from rural towns to Dublin. There is not the capacity for that.”

“There is a real problem with policing in this State and there has to be political accountability. It is not that I take any pleasure in not voting confidence in the Minister, but there has to be political accountability and on that basis I regret that I cannot express confidence in the Government on this issue,” concluded Deputy McNamara.