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Garda chief to stay on for two more years

THE Government has approved a two-year extension for Martin Callinan to remain as Garda Commissioner.

The country's most senior police officer was due to retire on age grounds next August, when he turns 60, but will now stay in the job until August 2015.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said Mr Callinan had overseen a radical and extensive change to the force.

He noted that a new garda roster was being piloted, the garda district and station networks were being reformed and modernised and an effective policing service was being maintained at a time of significant resource constraint.

Mr Shatter added: "At a time of such significant organisational reform, I believe it is desirable that there should be continuity in garda leadership.

"Mr Callinan's leadership over this period, during which there will be further challenges to be met, will be invaluable."

Since Mr Callinan took office, crime has dropped in almost all of the major categories.

The main exception is burglaries, but last spring the commissioner launched Operation Fiacla, and other initiatives, to tackle a worrying rise in those offences. As a result, 2,500 suspects have been arrested and 1,400 charged.

A spate of gangland-related murders in September also disrupted the pattern emerging over the past couple of years, but since then gardai have made considerable progress in their inquiries. Mr Callinan's handling of the issue of station closures has also drawn plaudits after several botched attempts by past governments to close some of the 700 stations around the State.

Earlier this year, 39 stations were closed and recommendations for a further spate of closures will be handed to the minister soon.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter yesterday announced that extra patrol vehicles for the Garda fleet will come on stream next month and in January.

He told the Seanad that funding had been made available for 170 new vehicles on top of the 42 already provided earlier this year.

Irish Independent