Tuesday 19 March 2019

Flanagan rules out widespread re-opening of rural garda stations closed over past decade

Charlie Flanagan
Charlie Flanagan

Ralph Riegel

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan ruled out the widespread re-opening of rural garda stations closed as part of cost-cutting and efficiency programmes over the past decade.

Mr Flanagan - speaking in west Cork as he confirmed the re-opening of Ballinspittle station - urged people to remember that there was more to policing than "bricks and mortar."

Over the past decade, almost 140 rural garda stations were closed as part of a major restructuring of An Garda Síochana operations.

In 2015, Mr Flanagan's predecessor, Frances Fitzgerald, acknowledged that the total annual savings from the controversial station closures was just €500,000 per annum.

Critics blamed the widespread closure of such garda stations for a spate of rural burglaries over the past decade which prompted the garda to launch a dedicated response, Operation Thor.

It targeted urban gangs which were terrorising some rural areas where burglaries rose by more than 10pc per annum.

Mr Flanagan said the re-opening of some stations, Ballinspittle included, was on the basis of an expert report by a senior garda officer.

Another Cork station, Kinsale, will upgrade to 24 hour operations.

"I want to acknowledge the process involved here - the re-opening of Ballinspittle Garda Station was contained in a report prepared for me and Government by an Assistant Commissioner," he said.

"I don't believe that all the garda stations that had been closed over the past number of years will re-open."

"It is important we that we acknowledge and recognise that there is more to gardaí than bricks and mortar."

"Particularly here in a constituency - a maritime constituency like Cork South West with a long and engaging coastline that garda resources are used to (the) maximum."

"I take advice from the Garda Commissioner (Drew Harris) and his team in that regard - I believe it is important that I, as minister, continue to provide sufficient resources for An Garda Síochana on the one hand and, on the other, my obligation to ensure that legislation - particularly in the area of criminal law - is modernised and updated to ensure that gardaí can tackle crime and protect communities."

Mr Flanagan insisted that he would provide the gardaí with whatever resources were necessary to keep rural communities safe - and he insisted his visits to such rural constituencies were to get first-hand knowledge of grassroots concerns and needs.

"I am very pleased to be here in west Cork with my colleague Jim Daly TD. I believe it is very important that I have an opportunity to do what I call 'a field trip' having regard to the fact that I am in my office in Dublin and in the Dáil week days."

"I am pleased to be able to have the opportunity to listen to concerns in rural constituencies like Cork South West and engaging with An Garda Siochana in terms of the protection of communities which is the fundamental obligation of me as minister and An Garda Siochana."

"I am particularly pleased to bring certainty to the issue regarding Ballinspittle Garda Station."

"I believe it is important that the Office of Public Works (OPW) proceed with the tender documentation and the target date for the completion of the work by the end of the summer."

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