Sunday 24 September 2017

Shatter must justify garda cuts, warn FG TDs

Fiach Kelly and Paul Melia

FINE Gael backbenchers are warning Justice Minister Alan Shatter that he must give them more details of garda station closures if he expects them to support the latest cutbacks.

Some want Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to explain how he is spending the force's resources.

This comes after the Irish Independent revealed that as many as 80 stations face being shut down before the end of the year, to be replaced by occasional garda clinics.

Waterford TD John Deasy has raised the issue in the Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC). He said that he and others in the party had "major reservations".

"The minister needs to come before the Fine Gael parliamentary party and tell us the exact details if he wants us to support this," said Mr Deasy.

He said TDs were finding out about shutdowns in their constituencies from local gardai but had yet to hear exact details, adding that any closures had to be properly communicated to worried communities.

The garda buildings are likely to be handed back to the Office of Public Works and will be available for community use.

"When people hear their garda station is closing, they think of one thing -- no police," said Mr Deasy.

Cutbacks

Representatives from the force are due to appear before the PAC next week to discuss public-sector allowances -- but they could also face questions on the closures.

Roscommon-South Leitrim TD Frank Feighan said Commissioner Callinan was ultimately responsible for how garda resources were allocated and that it would be more appropriate if he came before TDs, rather than Mr Shatter.

Wicklow TD Simon Harris said it was important to have clarity on the garda clinics.

Cork South-west's Noel Harrington said he had already seen closures in his constituency, and that TDs should have an input into future closures, so that lessons could be learned.

Kerry TD Brendan Griffin said he had no problem with a change in policing policy as long as there was "an increased presence on the ground".

Meanwhile, the Garda Representative Association (GRA) said gardai would find it very difficult to do their jobs if the stations were closed. Its president, John Parker, said closing smaller stations would result in savings of just €240,000.

He added: "They're talking about stations done up in the last number of years and which have a long life ahead of them, without a penny in maintenance. Hiring community halls will soak up those savings.

"The patrol cars aren't sufficient to perform normal policing. Stations are a base for people to deal with gardai privately and confidentially."

Irish Independent

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