Friday 18 October 2019

Ross receives special plaque for reopening Stepaside station

GOOD SPIRITS: Charlie Flanagan presents the plaque to Shane Ross to mark the re-opening of Stepaside Garda station
GOOD SPIRITS: Charlie Flanagan presents the plaque to Shane Ross to mark the re-opening of Stepaside Garda station
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Transport minister Shane Ross has been presented with a plaque commemorating the reopening of Stepaside Garda Station by justice minister Charlie Flanagan.

Mr Flanagan made the surprise presentation of a china plate, complete with an engraving of the controversial station, to Mr Ross before a Cabinet meeting two weeks ago.

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A photograph of the private presentation, which was obtained by the Sunday Independent, shows the two ministers smiling as Mr Flanagan presented the commemorative plate to Mr Ross.

The ministers are known to have had robust exchanges over the reopening of the station and other issues, such as legislation on judicial appointments.

However, the photograph suggests the Cabinet colleagues put their differences aside to mark the reopening of a station which has been criticised by Opposition politicians.

Cabinet sources said the presentation was "just a bit of fun" between the two ministers after a hard-fought battle over the station.

However, onlookers said Mr Ross's constituency colleague, culture minister Josepha Madigan, did not see the funny side of the presentation.

"Josepha was not impressed at all but everyone else took it in good spirits," a minister said.

Mr Ross campaigned to have the Garda station reopened before the last general election and made it a condition of supporting the Fine Gael-led minority Government. The Dublin station was one of 139 closed between 2012 and 2013 as part of a major cost-saving project by An Garda Siochana during the years of austerity budgets.

An internal Garda review of closed stations, which was requested by the Government, recommended reopening Stepaside and five other stations.

Donard Garda Station, in Wicklow, reopened earlier this year, while work is ongoing ahead of the reopening of stations in Ballinspittle in Cork, Bawnboy in Cavan, Rush in Dublin and Leighlinbridge in Carlow.

However, the review became embroiled in controversy when Garda Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy told the Public Accounts (PAC) Committee that reopening the Stepaside station was not a "number one priority".

A PAC report on the issue was critical of the decision to reopen Stepaside and called for further examination of the criteria used to recommend the reopening of the station.

However, the PAC's report were largely ignored by the Government and Stepaside is due to reopen in the coming months. In July, Mr Ross said he expected the station to reopened during the autumn.

He said the Office of Public Works was working on turning the old Stepaside building into a "state-of-the-art 21st Century Garda Station".

"Our priority was always to see a full Garda presence back in the heart of Stepaside village and further delays would not be acceptable," he said.

"I can assure you that work is underway and we estimate that Stepaside Garda Station should reopen in the autumn," he added.

The station had fallen into disrepair since it was closed six years ago and €1.5m refurbishment projects are currently under way ahead of the reopening.

It emerged last week that the station will not be open on a 24-hour basis.

In a letter to Independent councillor Michael Donnelly, Garda management said the current plan is for the station to be open only from 7am to 9pm. "It will not be a 24-hour station," the letter stated.

Sunday Independent

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