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Tuesday 23 January 2018

40 garda stations to be sold off in 'quick fire sale'

First tranche of former barracks goes on market in latest 'attack' on rural communities

Retired Garda Liam Hayes at Broadford Garda station where he served from 1978 to 2000 before it was closed on Thursday. Picture: Eamon Ward
Retired Garda Liam Hayes at Broadford Garda station where he served from 1978 to 2000 before it was closed on Thursday. Picture: Eamon Ward

Mark Regan

The first tranche of empty, rural former garda stations will be sold for around €500,000 later this month, the Sunday Independent has learnt.

In what will be seen as the latest attack on rural communities, the eight stations –located in parts of Leinster, Connacht, and Munster – will be put on the market on March 27.

Guide prices range from €35,000 to €125,000 and marks the start of a historic sale of many of the country's rural garda barracks.

A further 32 stations will be sold from the middle to the end of April.

The majority of these stations are in rural areas in counties such as Clare, Leitrim, Roscommon, Tipperary and Cavan.

In Leinster, the Office of Public Works (OPW) is to sell seven stations in counties Wexford, Meath, and Longford.

Four stations are to be sold in Cork, while a further four stations will be put up for sale in Galway.

However, sources say these remaining barracks may not necessarily be sold by public auction, and could be disposed of by private treaty.

Pressure continues in a number of locations for the vacant buildings to be offered free-of-charge for local community activities.

A group in west Cork has expressed its disappointment that one of the stations listed for sale next month, Inchigeela, was not handed over for local use.

Margaret Peters, of the West Cork Community Alliance, said: "rural Ireland is being attacked" and argued that building should be converted into a tourist information centre.

She told the Sunday Independent: "At the moment they're talking about closing the post office as well. The whole trend is towards urbanisation – and has been for a number of years. The closure of the station is a direct move to weaken the community.

"They're going to be sold for a pittance – there is no reason to sell them now."

If the OPW fails to dispense of the properties within a set timeframe, the taxpayer could be burdened with various maintenance costs, to prevent the structures falling into serious disrepair.

One station in Camp in West Kerry is listed for sale in April.

TD Michael Healy-Rae claimed the authorities are embarking on a "quick fire sale" in order to "get them off their books".

"What they're doing is ridiculous and they don't care what money they'll get for them. They'll sell them at rock-bottom prices, just so that they'll be able to write them off and they won't be left with maintenance bills.

"It's costing more to keep them closed than it does to keep them open."

In a statement to the Sunday Independent, the OPW said it maintains each property on an individual basis, making it "difficult" to provide an overall figure regarding maintenance costs.

It is understood that officials will use upcoming sales patterns as an indicator to what other stations still waiting to be sold will fetch on the open market.

Auctioneering sources say likely purchasers include those who wish to convert a former barracks into a family house, or those interested in developing a holiday home.

A number of UK investors have expressed interest, particularly in coastal properties in Lettermore, Co Galway, and Baldwinstown, Co Wexford.

There were 39 closures in 2012, with a further 100 stations decommissioned last year as part of severe budget cutbacks.

The vacant Whitehall garda station in north Dublin is due to be occupied next year by the Office of the State Coroner, and the State Pathology Service.

The OPW handed over the former Ballymote garda station in Sligo for community purposes in November.

The building is being leased to the Ballymote Tidy Towns and Tourism organisation and will be opened as an art gallery and tourist office.

The OPW has 155 decommissioned garda stations in its ownership.

To date, eight stations have been retained for alternative government use.

Forty are to be disposed on the open market.

Sunday Independent

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