Thursday 18 July 2019

Border garda station operating out of a prefab is 'rotting away' - superintendent

Dromad garda station: Photo Ciara Wilkinson
Dromad garda station: Photo Ciara Wilkinson

Elaine Keogh

Dromad garda station in county Louth, less than 2km from the border, has been operating out of a prefab which “will not last more than a week,” in the event of a hard Brexit.

That is according to the Garda Representative Association’s CEC representative for the Louth garda division.

He was speaking after Garda Superintendent Gerry Curley, Dundalk said today that the structure, “is rotting away.”

A hard Brexit is expected to require similar numbers of gardai as the outbreak of foot and mouth disease did in 2001.

At that time hundreds of gardai were needed to seal the border and prevent the spread of the disease.

In excess of 100 gardai were stationed in both Dromad and in Hackballscross garda stations and Garda Derek O’Donoghue said, “the current premises in Dromad, if it had 100 gardai in it, would fall apart in a week with that level of traffic.”

There are 35 border crossing along the Louth border, 14 are in the sub-district of Dromad which is just off the M1 motorway and 18 are in Hackballscross sub-district which is west of Dundalk and borders the Carrickmacross garda district.

Superintendent Curley said the current conditions in Dromad station, “are not suitable for providing a decent Garda service in the area,” and the cabin “there that is long past its use by date and has been there for 13-14 years now.”

“It is just not suitable inside, it is basically rotting away, and it is not suitable accommodation for the members working there at present and in the event of a hard Brexit it would be in no way suitable whatsoever. It needs to be upgraded as a matter of urgency.”

It is understood that the floor has rotted away in a number of places and has had to be patched.  Part of the roof needed to be repaired earlier this year and radiators have fallen off the walls.

It was described as ‘freezing in Winter and like a furnace in the Summer,’ and some of the internal doors may not be fire proof.

The cabin was erected beside a large detached house which was purchased with the intention of being renovated into a state-of-the-art Garda station. This never happened.

It is understood that money was spent insulating the external walls of the vacant house last winter even though no one works from it.

Superintendent Curley said that irrespective of whether there is a hard Brexit, “the Dromad area is an important area, the subdistrict of Dromad, along with HBX, is probably one of the most significant border areas along the whole border in the sense that it is south of the south Armagh and Newry areas which is a big population area and historically has been a difficult area to police.”

“So, it is important for us to have a proper Garda service in that area and at present with the conditions in Dromad, we cannot have that.”

However Superintendent Curley said, “My understanding is that there is no contingency in the budget for the next 3 years to do anything with Dromad.”

Asked if the existing structure would be suitable to accommodate more than the existing Garda party if there is a hard Brexit, Superintendent Curley said, “the exact figures that would be required to police a hard Brexit and to support Customs and Revenue, is not known at this stage however it would be significantly higher than what we have at present.”

He also said there are concerns about the effect of a hard Brexit on border policing and the issue of dissident Republicans.

“There is no doubt that a hard Brexit could cause an upsurge in dissident activity because unfortunately those individuals seem to exploit situations like that.”

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