More garda stations to close – we don’t need 700, says Alan Shatter
MORE garda stations are to be shut down, Justice Minister Alan Shatter has disclosed.
He confirmed the move as garda representatives criticised the decision, announced late last year, to close 39 stations around the country.
The number of stations to be hit by the second wave of closures has not yet been determined but it will be implemented next year.
Mr Shatter said the closures were part of a process of ensuring that resources were used wisely and more gardai were released for frontline duties.
He said 703 stations were no longer needed. They had been built at a time when communications were poor and transport was scarce.
"Policing is not about buildings," he said, adding that it was his aim to get more gardai out on patrol, instead of being confined behind desks in stations.
He said Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan would be assessing the case for further rationalisation in the light of the operational requirements in the force and would make his proposals in the draft policing plan for 2013.
"In the same way, can anyone really argue against the other proposal of the commissioner to close the public counter of some Dublin stations between 10pm and 8am?
"If people need the gardai in the middle of the night, it is usually for an emergency and they dial 999. There are relatively few members of the public who need to call personally to a garda station at that hour."
Mr Shatter said he believed most people would think this was a sensible move, which would improve services.
He announced the closures in Ballymoney, Co Wexford, at the annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors where shocked delegates were already angry over the initial phase of closures.
Association president Padraic Dolan said the initial decision to close stations was "absolutely disgraceful" and had been carried out without any consultation with his members or with the communities affected by the move.
He was particularly critical of the closure of Whitehall station on the northside of Dublin, where between €600,000 and €700,000 had been spent on badly needed refurbishment within the last few years.
"That money might as well have been poured down the drain," he said.
Mr Dolan said it was also the national digital radio site for that part of Dublin and wondered what would happen to that now.
But Mr Shatter rejected the criticism and pointed out that all of the stations were owned by the State. He said some of them would be used to house projects for the benefit of local communities, while others would be beneficial in the justice sector.
"They will be put to good use," he said.
Mr Shatter said he accepted many of the criticisms made by delegates about anomalies in the current legislation dealing with sex offenders and said those would be addressed in a new sex offenders bill, which he hoped to publish in the autumn and put through the Dail by the Christmas break.
He said it was important that sex offenders signed a register, where appropriate, in reference to a call by the association for legislation to force them to sign on in the district headquarters where they are going to reside, instead of a station anywhere in the country, and also provide photographs and palm prints as well as names and addresses.