Garda station opened just 12 years ago to face axe
IT was only opened 12 years ago but one of the country's smallest garda stations is among the 100 earmarked for closure.
Ballinskelligs garda station in Co Kerry is among nine in the one county alone that is to be shutdown.
Furious reaction locally has been mirrored in other villages and rural areas around the country that will lose their local stations.
The Budget Day announcedment by Justice Minister Alan Shatter sparked outcry across the country.
Garda supervisors have condemned the planned closure of the stations as a backward step.
And the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors says its members are seriously concerned about the impact on communities in rural Ireland.
Worst affected are garda divisions along the western seaboard including Galway (10), Sligo-Leitrim (9), Kerry (9), Clare (8), Limerick (6) and Donegal (5).
Association president Willie Gleeson said last night that the closures would take the heart out of many rural communities and, ultimately, people would suffer. He called on Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to initiate a communications exercise with the communities who were going to be most affected.
Mr Gleeson said the cuts came when garda resources were already stretched, numbers were reducing and they were operating with an inadequate fleet.
He pointed out that the closures would also impact on the cities, particularly in Cork, where only one station was being left open from 9pm until 7am.
He also complained that his members found out about the changes on the official garda website before the association had been briefed on the decision.
In Ballinskelligs, locals can hardly believe the new station is going to be shut down.
Rose Sigerson O'Sullivan, owner of Tig Rosie pub next door to the garda station, said the news concerned people in the area. "Nobody wants to see their local garda station closing and even though Ballinskelligs is a nice quiet area, it was great security," she told the Irish Independent.
The Garda Representative Association said the changes are being imposed without proper public consultation and will have a negative effect on the quality of the police service.
Meanwhile, a government backbencher described the announcement of the station closures on Budget Day as "sneaky".
Fine Gael's former justice spokesman John Deasy said the timing of the closures was "offensive and underhanded".
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said the closures would rightly lead to demonstrations throughout the country. He said the plan would radically change policing in Ireland by making it more distant from the community and exposing large sections of the country to significantly reduced coverage.
He added: "If you believe that gardai make a difference to keeping us safe, and I have no doubt that this is the case, then you must accept that this radical and dangerous proposal must be stopped before it goes any further."