FOUR Dublin garda stations are among 31 shutting down in a major cost-saving move.
Harcourt Terrace, Whitehall, Dalkey and Rush were all closed yesterday following a decision by Justice Minister Alan Shatter.
A number of other garda stations in the capital will see their opening hours slashed.
Stations in Cabinteely, Terenure, Cabra and Donnybrook were scheduled to have their opening hours reduced to 8am to 10pm.
Stations in Stepaside, Kill O' the Grange, Sundrive, Malahide, Santry and Howth were also scheduled to be stripped of their 24-hour status.
The axe-wielding austerity measure was condemned by residents in the affected neighbourhoods and by rank-and-file gardai.
Minister Shatter decided to override objections and proceed with the closures -- first announced in last December's Budget. The Department of Justice expects the closures will save the exchequer up to €79m. But serious concerns have been voiced about the depletion of local policing.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA) opposed the closures, declaring that the shuttering of the stations would "change the DNA of policing in Ireland".
Age Action Ireland expressed alarm at yesterday's mass closures, stating a growing sense of isolation and fear among the elderly will worsen, especially in rural areas.
GRA president Damien McCarthy warned the move meant vulnerable members of society have now been put at risk, saying: "There is a palpable fear of crime in both the urban and rural areas, and the presence of the local gardai is vital to protect the vulnerable and reassure the public."
He said the decision broke up a network that had been carefully constructed in 1922.
He said the network had survived the armed attacks of 1926 and had served the State well through the poverty of the 1930s, World War II, the austerity of the 1950s, the recession of the 1980s and decades of the Troubles.
The deputy general secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, John Redmond, had warned following the initial closure announcement that the shutdowns would inevitably lead to a rise in crime in some areas, which would be targeted specifically by opportunists.
Community leaders in Cloghane, Co Kerry, say the loss of their local garda station was a massive blow to the small community, having already lost a secondary school, parish priest and post office.