Tuesday 20 August 2019

Six Garda stations across the country set to be reopened

Stepaside garda station. Photo: Arthur Carron/Collins
Stepaside garda station. Photo: Arthur Carron/Collins
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Six Garda stations around the country, including Stepaside, are to be reopened under plans outlined to TDs this morning.

The Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has heard that that Garda report on which stations should be reopened is finished a decision has been taken on the six that will be returned to use.

The Assistant Garda Commissioner responsible for Dublin has said reopening Stepaside Garda station would not have been his number one priority.

However, Pat Leahy said that the station met the criteria for reopening better than anywhere else in his area of responsibilty.

Mr Leahy this morning told the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that reopening Stepaside "wouldn't have been my priority in terms of the allocation of personell".

But he added: "In terms of the criteria it fairly and squarely met these criteria better than anywhere else."

Under questioning from TDs he repeated that Stepaside "wouldn't have been my number one priority. I have other pressing demands across the region".

Mr Leahy said if he was getting extra Gardaí he would allocate them to Ballyfermot, Ronanstown and the North and South Inner City areas.

The criteria to be considered by the Garda Commissioner for reopening six stations under a pilot programme was set out by the government last year..

They included selecting the locations include population, crime rates, a mix of rural and urban and a stipulation that the station must still be in State ownership.

The six Garda around the country to be reopened under plans outlined to TDs this morning.

The PAC has heard that that Garda report on which stations should be reopened is finished a decision has been taken on the six that will be returned to use.

Ballinspittle, Co Cork and Bawnboy, Co Cavan join three other locations previously flagged as likely to be recommended  for reopening – Rush, Co Dublin, Donard Co Wicklow and Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow.

Stepaside is controversial as it was selected as the only station among previously four listed in an interim report last June as definitely reopening ahead of the completion of the final Garda report.

Independent Alliance minister Shane Ross had been campaigning for Stepaside - which is in his constituency - to reopen but both he and the government have rejected opposition allegations of ‘stroke politics’ over the issue.

Acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cúaláin and Department of Justice secretary general Noel Waters are today appearing before the PAC where they are to be quizzed on the process involved in selecting the stations for reopening.

A total of 139 stations closed around the country were closed in the wake of the economic crash between 2012 and 2013.

The Programme for Government after the last election committed to reopening six on a pilot basis.

Criteria to be considered by the Garda Commissioner in selecting the locations include population, crime rates, a mix of rural and urban and a stipulation that the station must still be in State ownership.

Mr Ó Cualáin told TDs that he has approved the recommendations of the final report by Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll on which stations should be reopened.

The next step is for the Gardaí to liaise with the Office of Public Works to determine the work that will need to be done to return the stations to use and how much it will cost.

An examination of staffing, vehicles and IT needs will also be carried out ahead of the stations reopening.

The Department of Justice received the final report from the Gardaí on Monday and minister Charlie Flanagan will be bringing it to the government soon.

TDs were told that there is no requirement for the Garda Commissioner to get the approval of the minister or the government to reopen a Garda station.

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