JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter has signed off on the closure of a busy urban garda station in his own constituency in less than a month – despite huge protests from residents.
Stepaside garda station in south Dublin will close on March 14.
This is despite the fact that more than 1,500 local residents turned out for a recent protest calling on Mr Shatter to keep the station open.
Already 95 garda stations have closed this year, with Stepaside and another four stations to follow suit in the coming months.
Local Labour councillor Letttie McCarthy said the community felt its concerns about the need to have a permanent garda presence in the area of 20,000 people had been ignored.
"I think it's ill-conceived. This is not a small rural station open for an hour a day. It has 34 gardai stationed there," she said.
During a recent meeting with community representatives, Mr Shatter pledged that gardai would be holding "clinics" in the area. But it is not yet clear if these will be provided using garda vehicles, which have been converted into new "mobile garda offices".
Des Kennedy, from the Centra shop, who has lived in Stepaside for over 40 years, said the station's closure would take the heart out of the village.
"It's too big an area to lose our station. We're very disappointed that they didn't give us any sort of hearing," he said.
Councillors on Dun Laogh- aire-Rathdown unanimously agreed a motion recently calling on Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to meet planning officials for a briefing on the likely population growth in Stepaside in light of the availability of zoned land.
But the announcement of the station closure had been made before the meeting could take place. Community representatives have been told that the 34 gardai in Stepaside station will remain assigned to the area – and that dedicated community gardai will be recruited for the area as well.
Mr Shatter told the Dail recently that the closure of the 100 garda stations nationwide would allow for an extra 61,000 hours of patrol.
He said gardai now had vehicles which had been converted into mobile garda offices.
"It is planned they will be assigned to areas where stations have been closed to ensure the public can continue to conduct their business and interact with An Garda Siochana," he said.