Video: Minister refuses to rule out more station closures in 2014
JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter has not ruled out more garda station closures next year and says he cannot predict what will be in the 2014 policing plan.
He also made it clear he did not intend to scale back the decision to shut 100 stations this year, 95 of which were closed from midnight.
The minister argued strongly in favour of the move and said it was not about depriving communities of resources but improving the quality of policing available to them.
He said he appreciated there could be genuine concerns in those communities about the reforms of the garda network.
But eight of the 39 stations shut last year had not been open for a number of years and their closure was a paper exercise, which recognised reality.
It was not a cash-saving exercise and the objective was to maximise the time that well-trained and highly skilled gardai spent on operational duties, increasing visibility, improving mobility and using limited resources better.
Mr Shatter pointed out that 98pc of the stations being closed this year were only open part-time, while 94pc were open for three hours a day or less and 88pc were served by one garda.
He said there had been a big increase in burglaries, prior to any station closures and those stations had not acted as a deterrent to the gangs and the atrocious violence they perpetrated on elderly victims.
He pointed out that Operation Fiacla had counteracted the spike in burglaries resulting in 3,538 persons being arrested between April and December and 1,924 being charged. That impact was being seen in the crime figures.
The changes would result in 61,000 additional patrol hours, he added.
Mr Shatter was speaking at the launch of a garda community crime prevention booklet, detailing the joint efforts being made by the gardai and Muintir na Tire and building on the existing community alert and neighbourhood watch schemes.
He also indicated he would be bringing proposals on garda recruitment to the Cabinet later in the year but could not say if these meant an injection of fresh blood into the force.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said the neighbourhood watch scheme could reduce the fear of crime.