Garda stations to lose 'blue man' link

A Garda technician removes the 'blue man' or public access call box from Ashford Garda Station in Co Wicklow. All rural Garda stations are to have these removed in the coming months. photograph: garry oneill

A Garda technician removes the 'blue man' or public access call box from Ashford Garda Station in Co Wicklow. All rural Garda stations are to have these removed in the coming months. photograph: garry oneill

Thu, Feb 21, 2013, 00:00

Garda stations that open part time but have to date escaped being closed as part of the Government’s cost saving plans are to lose their “blue man” intercom link to the closest major station.

The move is expected to draw strong criticism, especially from rural communities which will likely see it as another move at reducing policing around the country.

Direct communication

The “blue man” system had been known as the “green man” before the intercoms were changed some years back and replaced with more modern blue models.

The system in question is a network of small intercoms on the outside of stations which, when the stations are not manned, enable callers to the stations to communicate directly with the closest district headquarter 24-hour station.

In the era before the exponential spread of mobile phones and residential telephone landlines, the system was seen as vital in enabling the public to call for help or report crime quickly during those hours when their local stations were closed.

However, the system was reviewed last year and it was determined that the intercoms were not being used very often and therefore were not needed or cost effective. The Garda authorities decided to abolish the system.

The intercoms have already been taken from the 130 Garda stations closed since last year – 90 of them last month – and the process of removing them from those stations still open has already begun.

The Irish Times understands there were about 550 blue men intercoms in operation before the Government’s Garda station closure programme began last year.

The closure of 130 stations to date and the planned dismantling of the remainder of the network will see about 450 blue men taken down by June.

Completion by year’s end

It is unclear precisely when the remaining 100 systems will be taken down, but it is anticipated that the process will be completed by the end of the current year, according to informed sources.

The fact that the systems were no longer in regular use and the cost of maintaining them were the reasons given for the decision to take them out of commission.