Garda stations proving a popular choice with buyers
Most people would get the horrors at the thought of spending the night in a garda station, but there are others who don't seem to mind at all the prospect of spending every night of their lives in one.
Mind you, these people don't have to surrender their belts at the front desk, they can make more than one phone call, and most likely, nothing they say will be written down and used in evidence against them.
Since the state announced its controversial decision to sell off 40 former garda stations around the country, there's been no shortage of interest from buyers, and in some cases, they've been paying well over the guide prices at auction.
Just this week, five former garda stations went under auctioneer Martin Shortt's hammer in Virginia, Co Cavan. All five were snapped up, with one fetching more than two-and-a-half times its guide price, and only one selling below it.
Kilmessan former garda station in Co Meath had an AMV of €75,000 and fetched €200,000. Longwood, Co Meath, went for €76,000, Finea, Co Westmeath, for €56,000, and Ballymore, Co Leitrim, for €55,000. Tullyvin, Cootehill, Co Cavan, which had an AMV of €50,000, sold for €45,000.
Meanwhile, earlier this month, Noel Corcoran in Tipperary auctioned three former garda stations, all listed buildings, and sold all three. The former garda station at Dundrum Co Tipperary, was expected to fetch between €50,000 and €60,000, but sold to a female buyer for €90,000.
The station at Doon, Co Limerick, a 19th century building unoccupied since the 1970s and now in disrepair, had an AMV of €15,000 to €20,000 and went for €50,000.
Ballinure garda station in Tipperary fetched €100,000, or €30,000 above its guide price.
The highly-publicised first auction of garda stations in the history of the state was held at Ganly Walters' Dublin offices in late March, when eight premises went under the hammer. Five were sold to the highest bidders within 20 minutes. Two sold immediately after the auction, and only one failed to sell.
So, who is buying up these garda stations, and what do the purchasers intend to do with them? The paperwork for the March sales has now been completed, and two of the buyers have agreed to assist the Irish Independent with its inquiries.
Deirdre Holton, originally from Co Kildare, bought Newtowncashel former garda station in Co Longford at the Ganly Walters event. It's a single-storey three-bedroom house and adjoining garda station on half an acre of land, and it had an AMV of €55,000.
"Going to the auction was scary," says Holton. "I'd never been at an auction before. Mine was the sixth lot and three of them had already gone for double the AMV, so I really thought I hadn't the slightest chance."
Holton was bidding against someone else, but nevertheless, the property failed to reach the auctioneer's reserve. As the highest bidder, Holton was invited to negotiate when the sale ended. "They asked me to come back in half an hour. I only had limited funds from my inheritance from my parents, so I had a figure in my head I had to stick to. So, I went back in half an hour and spoke with the senior auctioneer and we shook hands. And that was it."
Holton has taken custody already. She's living in the house while doing it up. "There's a lot of painting, stripping wallpaper and all that but basically, the building is very sound," she says.
She intends to run it as a business in future, possibly a B&B. The former holding cells are in an outbuilding on the site. She plans to convert that into shower facilities or possibly a self-contained flat. "But that's a long way down the line, because I'm skint."
Holton, a gardener by trade, says the reaction from locals has been positive, even though she's not from the area. "They were delighted to hear that I was a gardener, because they go in for the Tidy Towns awards every year. So I've been putting a little bit of work in around the village. It's absolutely beautiful."
Patricia Lonergan, from Grangemockler, Co Tipperary, bought the local village garda station and adjoining two-storey three-bedroom house at the March auction. Lonergan runs an after-school programme for local children, and intends to move the business into the garda station and live in the house.
The AMV was €55,000 but Lonergan – or rather her parents, who attended the auction on her behalf – was the highest bidder at €103,000.
And her reaction, when her parents told her they'd bought her a garda station? "I was all excited. I really was overwhelmed," she says.
Lonergan hasn't moved in yet, as the place is still being refurbished. It needs rewiring and plastering, and new windows and doors, though is generally in good condition.
There are no cells. "I've been asked that so many times! Grangemockler was more of a substation, so if there were prisoners they'd just carry them off to one of the bigger garda stations in Kilkenny, Clonmel or Carrick-on-Suir."
She says local reaction to the sale has been positive. "People do think it's disgraceful that garda stations are closing down. But people are pleased about this and everybody is congratulating me."
Not all former garda stations are being auctioned. There is a smattering for sale by private treaty around the country. Among the cheapest is Labasheeda garda station – a fairly modern, 506-sq-ft building in the centre of the Co Clare village, overlooking the Shannon estuary. It has a main office, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a basement. Auctioneer, John Shaw in Limerick, is selling it for €20,000 – not much more than the price of a bail surety.
Meanwhile, the property that didn't sell in the Ganly Walters March auction is still 'at large'. The garda station at Ardagh, Co Longford, is a cut-stone building on its own grounds, and is probably one of the prettiest to come on the market. Ganly Walters is now selling it by private treaty for €125,000.
Buyers should know, though, that reaction to the sale of this one might not be so positive. Various community groups strongly protested its sale and lobbied government to allow it to be taken over for community use. As is always the case with garda stations, it might be a good idea not to sign anything till you've talked to your lawyer.