Garda crisis averted as €3m allocated for new squad cars
The Government has bowed to pressure and rescued the garda fleet from disaster by providing funding for new patrol cars.
After months of warnings in the Irish Independent about a critical shortage of squad cars, particularly at night, €3m has now been earmarked for 170 new vehicles.
It's a boost to a force that has been driving around in dilapidated cars -- and in many cases having no transport at all.
All of this has been happening in the face of a big rise in gangland crime and public unease at the level of burglaries and public order problems.
The vehicles are expected to be delivered and commissioned in December and January.
The bulk of the order will be for patrol cars but will include a limited number of unmarked cars and some vans.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter said €3m would be put in place for the purchases.
He described the funding as a substantial investment in garda transport, particularly at a time of severe budgetary constraints.
Mr Shatter said he was certain that the commissioning of the 170 vehicles -- mostly Fords -- would enhance the capacity of the gardai to provide an effective and efficient policing service throughout the country.
Last month, the Irish Independent revealed how a large percentage of the existing fleet was moving closer towards the maximum 300,000km limit that signalled the end of their life on the roads.
In some areas, only one patrol car was available at night to cover an entire county.
It was also pointed out that the shutting down of smaller stations in rural areas could only be offset by making more cars available to gardai to travel out on regular patrol from their district headquarters and maintain a high visibility in the affected communities.
So far this year, a total of 42 new vehicles have been commissioned.
Garda cars are not allowed to exceed the 300,000km limit because of insurance difficulties.
As the size of the fleet and the number of dedicated personnel in the traffic corps started to fall last year, the Department of Justice supported a reduction in a submission to the Government's comprehensive spending review.
The department acknowledged that the drop was "likely to attract negative criticism from agencies with a vested interest in road safety".
But it added: "However, a measured reduction could be publicly justified with an appropriate communications strategy."
The department also argued that efficiency savings could be generated from the redeployment of gardai to other operational duties.
And further savings could be achieved from a reduced need to purchase traffic corps vehicles, speed detection equipment and other operational gear associated with that section of the force, it added.