The lack of Garda patrol cars has reached crisis point in the east of the county with the news this week that Cootehill, Kingscourt, Virginia, Mullagh and Shercock are all without cars.
The only town in the above Bailieboro Garda District - apart from Bailieboro itself - with access to a patrol car is Ballyjamesduff, and The Anglo-Celt understands that it may well be removed by the end of the year, due to its mounting mileage.
Kingscourt, Cootehill and Virginia lost their cars earlier this year, but it has been at least many more years since there were cars in either of Mullagh or Shercock, if there ever was one in the latter.
When patrol cars clock up 300,000 kilometres, they are automatically taken out of circulation and are not replaced, which was recently the case in Cootehill.
Cootehill gardai now have no way of getting to the scene of an incident in a rural area and must wait for a car to come from Bailieboro.
Currently there are two cars used by the Traffic Corp, as distinct from Garda patrol cars, attached to Bailieboro. One of those is understood to have high mileage. A third car - described as a runaround - which was mainly used for enquiries, is understood to have been removed from the station.
The reduction in vehicles has now reached crisis point for gardai on the ground, and poses the biggest challenge to rural policing in years.
The Anglo-Celt has learned that Bailieboro's sole remaining patrol car is now on the road constantly, due to the demand from the other stations left without transport.
To make inquiries into a crime or take a statement, gardai in the towns affected by the reductions, must first request the Bailieboro car to come to collect them.
Available cars in the district are often tied up providing a taxi service for court purposes. If a defendant is remanded in custody at Virginia Court, for example, a patrol car from Bailieboro is required to bring that person to Castlerea, meaning the car is not available to the district for up to six hours.
President of Cootehill Chamber of Commerce Councillor Don Smith told The Anglo-Celt that the Cootehill patrol car was recently taken off the road, due to it passing the 300,000 kilometre threshold.
Cootehill garda area covers from Lisnalong to Treehoo Cross, from Drung to Canningstown and up around Mountainlodge. It is also shouldering an extra burden since Tullyvin Garda Station was officially closed at the end of 2011.
Cllr Smith said that while the gardai are a "diligent and professional force", that they are being undermined. "You can't police an entire district, including rural areas, on foot". Cllr Smith said this scenario was now putting additional pressure on Bailieboro Garda Station, which was already responsible for a huge area.
"If there is a burglary in a rural area in the Cootehill District, the person may well have to collect the gardai in their own car, as happened recently in Donegal," he said.
The Cootehill station is also without a holding cell, according to Cllr Smith, which means it is difficult for gardai to arrest suspects, and, if they do, they will encounter further difficulties in bringing them to a station with a holding cell. "The hands of the gardai are tied and they need someone to speak up for them and, consequently, I have decided to go public on this most important issue," said Cllr Smith.
The car problem has also undermined Cootehill's Community Text Alert scheme, operated through the senior citizens committee, according to Cllr Smith. The scheme enables members of the public to text a number to alert gardai, who now have limited ability to respond.
"It now effectively leaves the Text Alert in abeyance - it can't be used," said Cllr Smith.
He said that Cootehill residents are stunned and annoyed that the gardai should be left without a patrol car and contrasted the gardai's position with that of the Government, who have access to a jet. He also noted that many criminals have access to the latest technology and high-speed cars.
Cllr Smith insisted that it does not make sense for the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter to close rural stations, if he will not provide gardai patrol cars to police the area. Cllr Smith called on the minister to reinstate the patrol cars.