RURAL communities – already in uproar over the closure of garda stations – have been delivered another blow to their policing service.
The era of the little green man – a system that allowed the public to make direct contact with a district headquarters by pushing a button outside their local garda barracks – is about to end.
The move follows a review of the usage of the system in 550 areas where the green man – more recent models of which have been blue – has been a permanent fixture for decades.
The results showed that the green man is no longer in favour with the public.
Garda management decided it should be decommissioned and it is now intended to sever the link in 450 stations by the end of June.
Priority is being given to those stations that have already been shut down under the direction of Justice Minister Alan Shatter.
A deadline for the service in the remaining one hundred stations has not yet been set.
A senior officer said last night: "Public usage of the little green man has become virtually zilch, probably because of the huge increase in the number of mobile phones in circulation.
"It was decided after a review that it was no longer cost effective and shutting it down will save in the region of €500,000."
However, the move will be perceived as another body blow to rural communities in the wake of last month's closure of almost one hundred garda stations.
The green man was introduced to maintain a link between the gardai and small communities when it was decided to reduce the opening hours of stations in some areas.
Mr Shatter has announced that he does not expect any further station closures next year.
But the protests are expected to continue, particularly in rural areas that have been badly hit by crime sprees involving travelling gangs, and to turn into a slow-burning political issue.