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Friday 29 August 2014

Fewer than 20 shut garda stations are fit to house people

Tom Brady, Security Editor

Published 26/05/2014 | 02:30

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Stepaside garda station, which closed last year, is now being used by mobile phone operators. Photo: Arthur Carron/Collins
Stepaside garda station, which closed last year, is now being used by mobile phone operators. Photo: Arthur Carron/Collins

Fewer than 20 garda stations could be converted into suitable living accommodation for the homeless.

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The disclosure makes nonsense of the Government's suggestions that the closed stations could help tackle the growing housing crisis.

A new action plan targeting homeless families will be aimed at providing new accommodation for 2,700 people in need with up to €50m being allocated over three years to finance it.

But security sources last night said that the vast majority of the garda stations were not financially viable for conversion.

One source said last night: "It would cost a fortune to renovate any of the stations that are big enough to be converted into accommodation and would work out much cheaper to knock them completely.

"Those built in the early part of the last century are in a serious state of disrepair and most of them are situated in remote locations while the homelessness problems are largely arising in the cities and big towns," he added.

"It's likely that less than 20 stations could be of any significant use to a housing plan and even that number could be reduced further to a handful if strict criteria were to be applied," he said.

A total of 139 stations were officially shut down last year and in 2012, although some of them had effectively been closed for several years previously and the official announcement amounted to a paper exercise only.

Tenants

Officials confirmed that 18 of them have since been leased out for use by community groups and other interested parties, while eight stations have been sold off.

A further three – in Dalkey, Stepaside and Kill-o'-the-Grange in south Co Dublin – have tenants installed to maintain the premises because they are providing regular revenue.

The three have telecommunications masts generating income from licence fees from the mobile phone operators and, as a result, it has been decided they will not be placed on the market because of their current commercial value.

Sources pointed out that over the past few decades it was official policy not to provide accommodation with stations which, instead, were single units.

At the other end of the scale, some of the stations are old RIC barracks, dating back to the beginning of the last century.

When they were shut down, 98pc of the stations had been open only on a part-time basis while 94pc were open for three hours a day or less and 88pc were served by a single garda.

The Government stated at the time that many of them would be converted for other community services but so far this concept has not been adopted, apart from in a small number of cases.

Irish Independent

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