Over 40 garda stations to go in next closures
MORE than 40 garda stations are to be shut down in the next round of closures around the country, it was learned last night.
These are on top of the initial phase of 39 stations, which will all be closed by the end of next month.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and his senior advisers are involved in a detailed assessment of the service provided by existing stations before drafting a new plan to submit to Justice Minister Alan Shatter..
A final figure is not expected to emerge until later in the year.
But security sources told the Irish Independent last night that the number is expected to exceed this year's total of 39, which included eight stations that were officially listed as open but were non-operational.
One source said: "It is widely expected that the next round will be bigger than this year's cull but a lot of issues have to be worked out before the number is decided".
One measure under scrutiny is the amalgamation of some districts to take account of the shortfall in the officer corps as a result of the recent spate of early retirements.
Many superintendents are currently "doubling up" to fill vacancies for district officers.
Closures of the first batch of stations began at the end of last month and 37 of them are now shut. The last two stations are Dublin-based, with Harcourt Terrace closing at the end of this month and Dalkey on the last day of June.
The closures involved a total of 149 gardai, 17 sergeants and two inspectors. Twenty of the stations had no personnel attached to them on a full-time basis when they shut.
Establishing which stations should be included in the next group will pose bigger challenges for the authorities as local communities lobby to maintain a garda presence in their midst.
Fianna Fail justice spokesman Dara Calleary has accused Mr Shatter of adopting a twin-edged stance on the controversial issue. He said Mr Shatter was becoming a cheerleader for closing stations but when the political heat was turned on, it was a matter for the garda commissioner.
The minister said the garda commissioner presented him with a policing plan but the onus was on him to approve it.
He pointed out that almost all of the 703 stations had been in place since the foundation of the State.
This compared with Scotland, with a population of 5.2m but only 306 police stations, or less than half of the original number here.
In his policing plan, Commissioner Callinan said the closure decisions were made "only after careful analysis and research and I am confident that this action will result in a more efficient delivery of policing services".
New garda rosters were introduced last week on a pilot basis.