Europe

Varadkar insists Ireland is 'safe' despite week of violence

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has insisted Ireland is a “safe” country despite the spate of violence in recent days.

It comes after a week that has seen the horrific murder of teenager Keane Mulready-Woods, three shooting incidents, and the stabbing to death of Cork student Cameron Blair.

The violence prompted Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to claim the government is “losing control”

However, Mr Varadkar defended the government’s record on law and order and insisted “Ireland is a country that is safe”.

He said: “Ireland is a country that thankfully relative to other countries has a relatively low crime rate and a relatively low murder rate.”

Mr Varadkar added: “That doesn’t detract in any way from the seriousness of the crimes that we have witnessed in the last number of days which are unspeakable and are appalling”.

He said: “Our responsibility as a government working with the Gardaí and others to bring those people who has committed those crimes to justice.

“That’s why we put record resources into the Gardaí, that’s why we reopened Templemore which was closed by Fianna Fáil.

“It’s why we’ve put such investment into the Gardaí and resources in recent years .

“It’s also why we focused on reducing poverty, reducing disadvantage. And poverty is now down five years in a row.”

Fianna Fáil was scathing of Fine Gael’s record yesterday, with Jim O’Callaghan accusing Mr Varadkar’s party of doing “virtually nothing” to tackle gang crime over the last nine years.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan last night insisted: “We are going to defeat these violent, thuggish criminals.”

He hit back at Fianna Fáil, accusing the rival party of putting forward “back of the envelope” solutions.

He said Fine Gael had put armed support units in every Garda region and recruited 3,000 officers in five years.

The brutal murder of Keane has dominated the headlines and left the country and community in Drogheda deeply shocked.

Local Labour Party candidate Ged Nash last night claimed Mr Varadkar’s insistence that Fine Gael is the party of law and order “will come as a sick joke to the people of Drogheda”.

He said he had been calling for a multi-agency approach to gang crime for 18 months and claimed it was only now Mr Varadkar and Mr Flanagan had been persuaded of the need to do this.

In the town with Mr Flanagan yesterday, Mr Varadkar wanted to assure the community the Government was “100pc behind them”.

He pledged: “We’re going to get these people behind bars and we’re going to make this town safe.”

He appealed to anyone with information to come forward.

Mr Varadkar defended his party’s record, saying Fine Gael had restored Garda recruitment after the economic crash and the organisation’s €1.9m budget was higher than ever before.

In Dublin, Mr O’Callaghan said 10 people were murdered as a result of gang crime last year and claimed Fine Gael had “done virtually nothing to confront the threat”.

He promised anti-gang legislation with “more teeth” and to increase the number of gardaí from 14,100 to 16,000.

Mr O’Callaghan suggested that, as in cases involving IRA membership, the evidence of a chief superintendent should be admissible evidence in a Special Criminal Court involving gang members.

Mr Flanagan said the advice from the gardaí and justice officials was that this was not a solution as criminal gangs were unlikely to have permanent organisational structures.

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