Reopening of Garda stations to go beyond initial six
Senior Garda management has signalled the reopening of rural Garda stations may go far beyond the initial six slated to be brought back into use as part of a controversial pilot scheme.
Assistant Commissioner John O'Driscoll has said this is a "minor part of a much bigger project" headed up by the Policing Authority for an overall review of Garda boundaries.
He said this review is to be informed by the reopening of the six stations and highlighted the issue of the 139 stations closed around the country during the economic crash.
He said others have made the suggestion in recent debates on rural crime that "maybe it would be appropriate that all the Garda stations that were closed should now be reopened".
Mr O'Driscoll said it has to be taken into account that these stations were closed after a government review during "a time of austerity" when the Garda did not foresee the recruitment campaigns that have been introduced since.
He made the remarks after being quizzed on the pilot programme by Fianna Fáil's Jack Chambers.
The Dublin West TD claimed that gardaí had been "thrown under the bus" by the Government which, he argued, had set criteria designed to see Stepaside garda station reopen.
That station is controversial as Independent Alliance Minister Shane Ross had been campaigning for it to reopen, though both he and the Government reject accusations that it amounted to a political stroke.
Mr O'Driscoll wrote the report that made the recommendations for which stations are to be reopened.
Ballinspittle, Co Cork; Bawnboy, Co Cavan; Donard, Co Wicklow; Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow; and Rush, north Dublin, are the other locations.
Mr Chambers asked about recent comments by Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy, who said if he had extra manpower for Dublin he would send them to other parts of the capital before Stepaside.
Mr O'Driscoll said there will potentially be 800 more gardaí on the beat before any of the stations will be reopened.
He said there will be 211 newly trained gardaí graduating today and around 88 will be assigned to the Dublin Metropolitan Region.
He said "it's quite possible" Mr Leahy's priorities will be met before any station is reopened in Dublin.
"We are now in a space where we have all these additional resources," he added.
The committee heard that no time-scale has been put in place for the reopening of the six stations but that gardaí are liaising with the Office of Public Works and expect to hear back on necessary refurbishments in the first quarter of 2018.
Separately, Garda management was asked about measures in place to ensure there is not a repeat of the breath tests scandal that saw as many as 1.9 million bogus records generated by gardaí over a number of years.
Assistant Commissioner Michael Finn said that one of the contributory factors had been a difficulty with supervision.
He said this is being improved with 250 sergeants and 50 inspectors being appointed this year.
He said the systems are being put in place that will ensure management has the capacity "to make sure and carry out the checks which will ensure we won't get into the mess we were in in the past".