KERRY Chief Superintendent Pat O'Sullivan has assured residents in south Kerry that there continues to be a strong garda presence in the locality despite the abolition of Cahersiveen Garda District this week.
In the most significant shake up in policing in south Kerry since the foundation of the state, Cahersiveen Garda District ceased to exist from 9am Monday having been submerged into the Killarney Garda District.
In addition, opening hours have been reduced at Cahersiveen Garda Station which will also no longer have an attached superintendent.
Part of widespread cost cutting measures, the changes come less than three months after closures across south Kerry as stations in Ballinskelligs, Valentia Island, Kilgarvan, Lauragh and Beaufort have already shut.
Kerry's top ranking garda, meanwhile, says the service will continue to have a strong presence, albeit with reduced resources, and stated that he had already met with the local community, along with former Acting Superintendent Fearghal Patwell, to highlight the changes.
"We explained what was happening, that the structure was changing but that the level of policing would not be reduced significantly," the superintendent stated.
"We are no different to any public sector organisation and are under no illusions that we have to do more with less but I want to assure the community that we will be there to assist.
"While the station will be closed, there will be mobile policing 24/7 and this is also an ideal opportunity to rejuvenate the community alert systems which we are there to support and liaise with. I just want people to be aware that, instead of contacting Cahersiveen out of hours, they now have to contact Killarney," he added.
Cahersiveen Garda Station will now open from 9am to 9pm Monday to Saturday, and Sunday from 9am to 5pm.
Those who require garda assistance out of hours are now asked to contact Killarney Garda Station on 064 6631222 and 24/7 patrol cars in the area will be contacted by radio.
While the merger will see the majority of the former Cahersiveen District amalgamating with Killarney, the exceptions will be Castlemaine Garda Station, Farranfore and Castleisland which have merged with Tralee.
As part of the changes, five new garda sergeants and one garda inspector will join the Kerry division, including the area's first female inspector, Aileen Magner, who was originally attached to Charleville. There have also been new patrol cars introduced to Kenmare, Killorglin and Sneem.
Asked if garda morale has been affected by the changes, the chief superintendent agreed it had - to an extent.
"We are no different to any other public service and so morale wouldn't be as high as it was going back, say 10 years ago, but we're subject to the same fiscal rectitude - a lot of people are hurting out there but we have to face reality."
The merged Killarney District is the biggest in the country outside of the city areas and stations still active include Killarney, Killorglin, Kenmare, Cahersiveen, Barraduff, Glenbeigh, Sneem, Waterville and Portmagee.