City garda stations face restricted opening hours
CITY garda stations will be targeted for restricted opening hours as part of cost-saving measures imposed by the Government.
The Irish Independent has learned that the focus has shifted from the expected closure of many small country stations.
A number of barracks are due to shut in rural districts but the move will be more limited than previously thought.
Instead, the focus is expected to be on Dublin, where 49 stations are open around the clock.
These are under review and it is understood that some will lose their permanent status, with the public being referred to the nearest station or district headquarters.
Other station closures are also on the agenda but these are being confined largely to those already in poor condition or which are only manned for a few hours a week. In rural areas, the focus will be on one-man stations, which could be replaced by regular patrols from district headquarters.
However, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors said it was concerned about the potential for further loss of contact between local gardai and their communities.
The Garda Representative Association official in Cork, Michael Corcoran, warned that authorities would have to take account of the time taken to respond to calls.
The list of stations that will be affected was compiled by local garda management after reviewing divisional resources. It was then studied by senior officers at the request of Justice Minister Alan Shatter.
The minister has rejected earlier reports that 200 of the 703 stations could be shut because of the cutbacks but acknowledged some barracks would disappear and others would open for shorter periods.
Small stations where the accommodation is in disrepair could be replaced by taking a room in the local post office or community hall. Some stations have already been effectively shut but have never been officially listed as closed.
"The emphasis is on maintaining a garda presence in the local community and avoiding severing the vital link between the force and the people," one officer told the Irish Independent last night.
"The local garda spends most of his or her time on patrol and the changes would mean that instead of carrying out office duties in a derelict building, the work could be done in a room elsewhere," he said.
He also dismissed suggestions that stations would be closed because crime levels in their areas were low.