FG TD takes on Shatter in new front on closing major garda station
A PROMINENT Fine Gael deputy is opposing the plan by Justice Minister Alan Shatter to close a busy garda station in his constituency.
Stepaside garda station, which has 34 officers is one of 100 garda stations nationwide due to be closed next year.
But Fine Gael Dublin South TD Peter Mathews, pictured right, said he intended to meet Mr Shatter this week to seek a "reprieve" for the urban station in south Dublin.
"My best advice and information at the moment would lead me to believe that Stepaside garda station is value for money on a cost-benefit analysis and I wouldn't be inclined to close it," he said.
Mr Mathews said the garda station covered a sprawling suburban catchment area of around 20,000 people and provided a "platform" for gardai to provide a speedy response to incidents.
And in a further challenge to Mr Shatter, a local Labour councillor warned that the station's closure would make it more difficult to protect the British Ambassador, Dominick Chilcott.
Lettie McCarthy said that a garda car was supposed to be within two minutes of the Ambassador's residence in Glencairn House at any one time. She said that due to the dissident republican threat, it was necessary to keep providing security for Mr Chilcott's house in the Stepaside garda district.
"It's very hard to justify closing the station," she said.
Ms McCarthy said that the Stepaside area was "not settled" due to the huge 300pc growth in population over the last 20 years. She also said that locals feared that the station closure would lead to an increase in burglaries, car thefts and muggings.
"Stepaside is a very busy station – you can't lump it in with some of the smaller stations. I think I would have expected Minister Shatter to understand the area more," she said.
Hundreds of people attended a public meeting about the station closure this week held by Independent Dublin South TD Shane Ross. Another 1,500 have signed a petition to oppose it at the post office in Stepaside.
It is poised to become a political issue in the constituency, which is due to be reduced from a five-seater to a three-seater at the next general election.
Local TD and Labour Junior Minister for Primary Care Alex White could not be contacted for comment but Fine Gael Dublin South TD Olivia Mitchell says she is backing the increasingly controversial decision to shut Stepaside.
"We don't have gardai just to man stations. They're far better off out patrolling. That was the thinking behind the increase in the budget for garda cars, so they could be out on the ground rather than sitting in stations," she said.
Stepaside is on the foothills of the Dublin Mountains spanning major tracts of rural and suburban south Dublin.