News Irish News

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Ross defiant despite PAC attack over garda station

Campaign: Shane Ross. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Campaign: Shane Ross. Photo: Fergal Phillips
John Downing

John Downing

Transport Minister Shane Ross has remained unrepentant about his efforts to re-open Stepaside Garda station in his own Dáil constituency.

But a new audit report has cast serious doubt on the station reopening at all. The Dáil watchdog Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has said it found "no policing case" for the controversial Government decision to reopen the Garda station in south Dublin.

The committee chairman, Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming, said it was a matter of concern that value for money and best use of Garda resources had not been taken into account in the controversial decision. But he insisted he could not politicise the case as chairman of the PAC, nor could the committee dictate to the Government.

Mr Fleming did, however, raise doubts about the station actually reopening, as he said the building was not suitable.

He said the issue would now pass to the Oireachtas Justice Committee, which must scrutinise spending on such projects, and the report will also be passed to the Public Expenditure Department.

The committee recommended that the Office of Public Works must assess the Step-aside station building, to find the estimated cost of renovating it. It must also assess whether a new building will be required in the future, before moving ahead with the decision.

Several committee members, however, castigated Transport Minister Shane Ross for mixing his ministerial role with that of a local TD for the area. They all noted that Mr Ross was previously an active member of the PAC, and in that capacity just a few years ago would himself have condemned the move as "parish pump politics".

The committee vice-chairman, Alan Kelly of Labour, said the decision had courageously been criticised at their committee by Assistant Garda Commissioner, Pat Leahy. He also said the head of Garda human resources, John Barrett, had not been consulted on the decision.

Fianna Fáil Meath-West TD Shane Cassells said Mr Ross's appearance with placards claiming credit for the Cabinet decision spoke for itself.

"People will make up their own minds about whether this is 'Del Boy politics' or not," Mr Cassells said.

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said Mr Ross would have been "railing" against the move in his past role as an outspoken PAC member as recently as 2011.

But Mr Ross remained defiant about his role in the matter.

"I have campaigned for five years against the foolish decision to close 139 Garda stations. Stepaside is only one of six stations selected by the gardaí to be reopened as part of a pilot scheme," he told the Irish Independent.

"I fought for the review and pilot scheme, as a matter of national policy during the Programme for Government negotiations in 2016.

"How could I abandon a cause I have championed when in opposition for so many years?" he added.

"Does the supposedly non-political PAC expect me, once in office, to suddenly abandon those who have for so long been the victims of crime?"

The PAC also found that unpaid road tolls worth €10m on Dublin's M50 ring-road have been written off over the last two years.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News