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Thursday, September 29, 2022

Political row scuppers special meeting on crime after Cherry Orchard ramming incident

A special meeting to address crime in the wake of the Cherry Orchard incident has been cancelled after politicians became embroiled in a row over who to invite.

It is understood members of the Justice Committee became involved in what were described as “heated” exchanges during a private session when they could not agree on how the issue of antisocial behaviour and crime should be dealt with by the committee.

It comes as gardaí investigating the incident in which a patrol car was rammed by a stolen vehicle in Dublin carried out searches on six houses in the Ballyfermot area and seized a number of items.

Earlier this week, the Justice Committee agreed to invite Garda representatives to attend a specially-organised meeting next Wednesday.

It is understood that the Garda Representative Association (GRA) and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) had accepted the invitation to appear before the committee to speak about resourcing and the response that is now required to tackle crime.

However, a number of members including Lynn Ruane, Thomas Pringle, and Patrick Costello raised objections to this meeting and argued that social issues should be examined. They called for the inclusion of community organisations, youth workers, and the Irish Council of Civil Liberties in any discussion.

Independent senator Lynn Ruane raised concerns that the meeting might be perceived as solely about Cherry Orchard and not the wider issue of crime.

Ms Ruane also raised concerns that the meeting next week might be perceived as solely about Cherry Orchard and not the wider issue of crime.

Fine Gael representatives on the committee argued that it would be too soon to consider the issue and suggested that it be postponed.

This was seen by some other members of the committee as an attempt to “circle the wagons” around Justice Minister Helen McEntee, who has come in for intense criticism over her response to the ramming of a Garda car in Cherry Orchard.

One member said chairman James Lawless was “miffed” about the response of other members and pointed to the fact that considerable work has been carried out in relation to the supports needed. He said the committee had already engaged with community and social organisations.

Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, Mr Lawless had said: “My colleagues and I on the Justice Committee have delved into the causes of crime but I feel our next focus must be on crime itself. We must now take a stand and in doing so take on criminality and resource the gardaí.”

The private meeting ended without agreement being reached.

Driving erratically

The ramming incident took place at about 7.30pm on Monday, after gardaí were alerted to two vehicles driving erratically in the Cherry Orchard area of Ballyfermot.

Footage of the incident, in which several onlookers could be seen cheering for the driver of the stolen car, was shared widely on social media.

A Garda spokesperson said six searches were carried out at domestic residences in the wider Ballyfermot area relating to the incident.

The searches were focused on “evidential gathering” and a number of items, including electronic devices, had been seized.

“Gardaí continue to appeal to any member of the public who may have witnessed this incident or who has any information on this incident to contact Ballyfermot Garda Station. No arrests have been made, investigations are ongoing,” the spokesperson said.

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