TD: 'Victorian network' of hundreds of garda stations not needed
A Fine Gael TD has hit out at Ireland's "Victorian network" of more than 560 garda stations saying: "We don't need anything near that".
Dublin Fingal deputy Alan Farrell made the remarks at the Oireachtas justice committee where the Garda Inspectorate was briefing members.
A total of 139 stations - mostly in rural areas - were closed by the last government.
But Mr Farrell said Ireland has "a massive number" of stations when compared to the UK.
He said that in his opinion Ireland's "Victorian network" has "absolutely no space in our policing plans in terms of the maintenance and upkeep of x number of hundred stations across this State when we don't need anything near that".
He asked Deputy Chief Inspector Mark Toland for his view on the matter.
He said that some stations he visited when he first arrived in Ireland "were not in a fit state". And he cited one station - now closed - that "had a tree growing in the middle of it".
Government has promised to reopen six closed stations on a pilot basis, with the Garda Commissioner ultimately deciding the locations.
Mr Toland was asked by Independent TD Mick Wallace if he thought too many stations had been closed.
He replied that he recognised the "symbolic presence" of a station in a community but that garda management faced a dilemma of having officers manning quiet stations or sending them on patrol.
Mr Toland said that a visible garda presence does reassure communities, and people often didn't realise when gardaí were patrolling their areas.
"We've recommended they need to knock on doors...let people know they're actually patrolling the streets," he added.