Warning as worn-out garda cars 'grounded'
A NUMBER of small rural garda stations could be left without a patrol car in the coming weeks.
It follows confirmation that part of the nationwide fleet of patrol cars have been "grounded" in recent weeks because they have too many miles on the clock.
Seventy garda cars will have more than 300,000km on their odometer by the end of the year and when they reach that level they are no longer considered safe to drive.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has now highlighted the issue amid concerns that the force had access to fewer low-mileage vehicles.
Urban stations are also being hit by the reduction in the fleet and in Dublin several districts have fewer cars available for patrols on the streets.
GRA vice-president, Mallow-based Garda John Parker, described the loss of vehicles as very serious.
Rank and file gardai, he said, didn't blame management for the problem as they were trying to do their best with dwindling resources, but laid the blame on Justice Minister Dermot Ahern.
"The officers and men are doing the best with what they have, but the lack of sufficient and proper vehicles makes it much harder," he said.
As a result, local garda chiefs are being asked to juggle around their resources but sources say they believe "it's like moving the deck chairs on the Titanic".
One source added : "They're taking cars from smaller, rural stations and moving them into bigger towns across the county, but it's going to come to the day when we'll have no patrol car to go out in to respond to a call. It will be too late then".
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern recently admitted that 962 of the 2,812 strong fleet were more than four years old.
And some of the defective cars have had to undergo repairs costing more than €10,000 -- half the price of a new car.
"Garda management are satisfied that adequate recourses are available to police all garda divisions. As of the end of July, there are over 2,700 vehicles available to the force," an official garda spokesman said last night.
Earlier this year it emerged that no new patrol cars had been bought for two years. However, it was pointed out that the authorities had purchased a large amount of new vehicles in 2006 -- 60pc of the entire fleet -- after a late allocation of €17m from the Exchequer.
The Dail Public Accounts Committee heard from the State's spending watchdog, Comptroller and Auditor General John Buckley, that garda cars were normally bought after an analysis was carried out by the garda fleet management team.
He explained that the availability of the money had led to an accelerated acquisition pattern as the cash would have had to be handed back to the Department of Finance if it was not spent before the end of that year.
Mr Ahern said there had been a "sustained programme of investment in garda vehicles" between 2007 and 2009.