Garda chief says he was urged to shut more stations
GARDA Commissioner Martin Callinan has said he was put under pressure to close more garda stations last year. He has vowed to keep all remaining stations in place while he is in office.
He made the pledge while addressing retired gardai at their annual conference in Sligo.
In unscripted comments, Mr Callinan said he had become aware of a motion before the Garda Siochana Retired Members' Association (GSRMA), condemning the closure of 95 stations by the force last year.
Mr Callinan told the conference: "Let me state categorically that there will be no further closures while I remain commissioner. I am fully satisfied as to the current portfolio available to the force. There was a lot more pressure to close a lot more garda stations."
The commissioner said the closure decisions had been taken after extensive monitoring of resources and that he was satisfied that "this does not render it (the force) any less effective and the commitment of An Garda Siochana to the community is not diminished."
However, Justice Minister Alan Shatter last night denied putting Mr Callinan under any pressure.
A spokesperson for Mr Shatter said: "The minister did not pressurise the Garda Commissioner to close garda stations. The proposals for station closures were made by the commissioner as part of the Policing Plans for 2011 and 2012 and constituted his professional judgment as to how best to use garda resources in the delivery of an effective policing service."
Earlier, delegates at the GSRMA conference had backed a motion condemning cutbacks in the force.
Dan Redmond, a delegate from the Wexford branch, said: "Whole areas of the country are no longer being policed."
He said people in rural areas could not sleep at night because of the fear of crime, adding: "A garda presence in country areas is essential. Patrol cars fleeting in and out of areas is not proper policing."
Noel McCarthy, who sits on the body's executive council, said: "What we are getting now is a 'call me if you want me service' and that is not proper policing. We speak as concerned citizens but with an advantage of a lifetime in policing."
The GSRMA vowed also to fight cuts to the pensions of retired gardai.
Cork delegate John Murray said: "People think we achieved independence after the 1916 Rising but we didn't. We simply exchanged one form of slavery for another.
"Our political masters have plundered our savings and enslaved our children and grandchildren in housing debt."
The association's president Gerry Blake, said the media had been invited to the annual conference for the first time because the future focus of the group – which is mainly a social body – would be to lobby.