Gardaí concerns over closures
The two biggest organisations representing Garda members have expressed fears the Government may use data indicating low levels of recorded crime at most Garda stations as a charter for further station closures.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA), which represents 11,200 rank-and-file gardaí in a force of 13,500, said further closures would damage policing and undermine public confidence in the force. The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), which represents middle-management ranks, expressed its concern no research had been compiled on the impact of station closures.
GRA president John Parker said many part-time and one-man Garda stations cost in the region of €3,000 to run annually. He believed more closures would bring very modest savings but would be a blow to the link between the Garda and communities, removing the permanent presence that deterred crime and reassured people. “If the local garda goes, you’re deprioritising response times in that local community.”
AGSI general secretary Joe Dirwan said when some stations were closed along the Border in the 1960s, gardaí were distanced from those communities, some of which later became centres of terrorist-related activities. “You have to ask if the public wants a fire brigade-style model of policing. Do people want the guards to arrive, see to a call-out and then leave? Or do they want ongoing engagement?”
The comments follow the publication of crime figures in The Irish Times that revealed 80 per cent of Garda stations recorded one crime or less per day last year, with 41 per cent recording one crime or less per week.
This year, 39 Garda stations have been closed as part of cost-cutting devised by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. He has asked Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to draw up plans for further station closures next year.Many gardaí fear next year’s closures will involve a greater number of stations.