'With no local garda, a way of life has gone'
on 28/01/2013 00:00:00
His solitary presence was a source of reassurance in the community which nestle in the foothills of the Galtees.
Now the absence of the uniform has left a worrying void.
At his home just outside the village Christy said: "I was stationed here on my own for 23 years and I was unique living and working in a community in the (one-Garda) station. Because I live here, I was available 24/7, but did not find this any bother as I was stationed among fine decent country people. The advantages outweighed the minuses. You met the people in the local shop; when you were out for a pint you might have somebody who wanted a quiet word. You were never off the job as such because of your identity as the local garda.
"You will never have a garda living and stationed on his own in communities like this again. It's a way of garda life that has gone now and that's a great pity. The gardaí are going to lose that special contact with the local community. I understand the economics of it, but it's a shame this contact where the garda knew every family and their children will be lost. My wife was always 'the guard's wife' and my children 'the guard's children', but there were no barriers and we all got on."
The fact that Christy McCormack is now out of uniform in retirement, is causing unease in Galbally (population 1,200).
Catherine O'Neill, who runs the village post office and shop, said: "People were used to having Christy around. Now they have no name of a person (in the gardaí) to contact. The station is closed. People feel more vulnerable. We live over the shop and post office, but if we lived a few miles out the road you would worry more about break ins. Garda Christy would drop in here most days and meet with the locals who always loved to see the uniformed garda. The pensioners were particularly glad to meet and talk with Christy and it reassured them they had a guard always around."
Jim Fitzgerald, a 68-year-old who ran a garden nursery business and served as chairman of the Galbally community council for 28 years, said the local community alert are setting up a texting system to coordinate information sharing on local security matters.
But he said the fight must go on in rural Ireland to stop the closures of village stations.
Jim said: "It is not possible for a small community to fight things like this on their own. Alan Shatter (Minister for Justice) has got away with murder on the closure of rural stations. Rural organisations like IFA, ICMSA, Macra na Feirme, Muintir na Tire, ICA, the GAA an others must now unite to fight what is happening. It is the power of people uniting together that will stop this. We can't stand by and watch elderly people being hammered in their homes by marauding gangs out looking to steal their pension money. We have to get united. Here in Galbally I feel the least we need is a liaison garda who could be specially delegated to link up with the community."
Mr Fitzgerald said they had no garda for brief periods in 1980 and knew the consequences.
"During that time there was a significant increase in crime. One family had their home broken into three Saturday nights in a row. We campaigned to get a garda back in the local station and Gerry Collins, who was minister for justice got us back our garda."
Mr Fitzgerald said the community alert should have one particular garda from the Bruff district to act as go-to member of the force as "this would be some help".
Pat Henebry, 60, was in from his home at Ardnamoher, just outside the village, to get some messages at O'Neill's shop.
He said a Garda presence at the local station was vital. "You need a garda who keeps contact with the people and who has a visible presence like when Christy McCormack was around. People felt more secure then. If you need a guard now you have to ring Bruff," he said.
Tom Rea, a 68-year-old widower living on his own, said: "People feel more vulnerable and lock the door after a certain hour. The closure of our Garda station is a bad move, a very backward trend."