I was shocked when I discovered Kildare has the lowest level of Gardaí per head of population in the country, at a staggering 15.01 per 10,000 head of population. This is simply not right.  When you consider that the Sligo / Leitrim Garda division has a rate of 31.16 /10, 000, that there are divisions with double that figure like Limerick, or Roscommon/ Longford, we have to start seriously questioning the allocation of Gardaí to our communities. There are no community Gardaí in the county. We have the second lowest number of Garda stations, just 15. By contrast, Tipperary and Donegal have 37 stations.

It’s imperative the Garda Siochána is restored to its optimal size of 14,000, and that numbers are maintained at this level with no further cutbacks. We need a strong, well-resourced and well-managed force to protect and support our communities and towns. Closing stations, undermining the precious links between the Gardaí and the people they served was a major mistake made by this Government.

I’d like to see the neighbourhood watch programme being revived and expanded. Fianna Fáil wants to establish a national neighbourhood watch directorate to support and drive schemes everywhere, this will be absolutely crucial in terms of tackling rural crime, especially burglaries.

In Kildare, theft and burglary are the most frequent offences. We have the ninth highest recorded level of crime across 21 Garda divisions. Our burglary rate, compared to a national average, is 57.5 per  10,000 head of population, and puts us at tenth out of the 21 Garda divisions.  Our theft rate is higher, 6th out of the 21 Garda divisions.

Our criminal justice system is expensive, outdated and ineffective A recent CSO report by the Irish Prison service and Central Statistics Office in 2013 showed that criminals in Ireland have a reoffending rate of 62.3% within three years. More than 80% of those who reoffended did so within one year of release.

Fianna Fáil believes that Ireland needs to build a criminal justice system which not only acts to deter criminal activity but also allows for restorative justice to the victim and the community in which the crime was committed. We commit to expanding the use of restorative justice in our criminal justice system where appropriate and ensure that community service orders are fit for purpose and monitored effectively.