THE NUMBER of violent deaths in Cork over the last six months requires a stronger response to crime in the city, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said.
Mr Martin was speaking three days after the killing of 20-year-old Cameron Blair on Friday night on the Bandon Road in the city — the sixth violent death in the city since July.
Mr Blair, a promising sports star from West Cork, was the victim of a fatal stabbing at a house party.
Mr Martin said a lack of gardaí on the frontline in Cork and the dissolution of drug task force areas by Fine Gael has resulted in an increase in drugs in the city.
He told The Echo: “In Cork alone, in the last six months, we have had six murders and that must act as a catalyst for a much stronger response from the State to the situation.
“I think many parents are very worried, very anxious about it and I think we have to use the full rigour of the law and ensure that the criminal justice system does act as a deterrent to people who are using violence and murdering people in such wanton violence.
“The State has to be very strong in terms of that in my view.”
In terms of supports in communities, Mr Martin said that Fianna Fáil has been highlighting an issue over the past eight years since Fine Gael dismantled the drug task force areas.
He added that he believes the country is awash with drugs and gang lords are succeeding in developing their business into every town and village in Ireland and into areas where there wasn’t a significant problem with drugs before.
He said: “I think the Taoiseach [Leo Varadkar] is too dismissive of that reality and the concerns and anxieties of many many people in terms of that reality.
“I think it is going to take a different level of response and our criminal justice system needs to change and the laws need to be changed to deal with these drug lords who are distributing huge volumes of drugs across the country, who are exploiting young people, getting young people to act as their distributors, buying and selling drugs.
“Essentially, they took away all the supports that communities had from specialist intervention programmes to early school leaving projects, which keep people on the right road then getting sucked into the wrong road with gang lords and so on.
“We have been around the country and they are all gone essentially.
“They were doing very good work in the community especially in disadvantaged areas.
“That work can’t be stop-start it has to be continuous.”
However, Cork Fine Gael senator Jerry Buttimer has defended his party’s record in relation to law and order in Cork.
Speaking to The Echo, Mr Buttimer said that he had long been an advocate for greater visibility and increased resources.
“I believe there are four main things needed to combat crime, more visibility, resources, sentencing and education.”
Mr Buttimer said that while canvassing, he could see that people at the doors were concerned.
“It is very important we ensure Cork is a safe place to live, work, socialise and visit,”
Discussing the issues, Mr Buttimer said we need more gardaí on the beat and we need to tackle the ongoing issue of illegal drug use.
“We need to have a real discussion and conversation about the misuse of drugs and alcohol. There has been a rise in the use of illegal drugs and it needs to be tackled.”
Over the weekend, Mr Varadkar insisted Ireland is safe.
He said: “Ireland is a country that is safe. Ireland is a country that thankfully relative to other countries has a relatively low crime rate and a relatively low murder rate.
“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.”
Detective Superintendent Mick Comyns, who heads up the Cork City Crime Division, said he is “happy” with the progression of the investigation into Cameron Blair’s death so far.