Shatter announces closure of 100 Garda stations across the State

Thu, Dec 6, 2012, 00:00

Minister for Justice and Defence Alan Shatter has announced the closure of 100 Garda stations across the State in the biggest restructuring of An Garda Síochána in its 90-year history.

The closures represent just one part of a sweeping programme of change that has been heavily criticised.

The existing 28 Garda districts are to be amalgamated into 14, while seven stations, including Dublin Airport and six in Cork city, will have their opening hours reduced.

The Dublin stations at Kill O’ the Grange and Stepaside* are the largest of those to close. However, closures in the worst-hit regional areas will perhaps draw most criticism.

In Galway, some 10 stations will close while Kerry will lose nine, Clare eight and Limerick six. In both Leitrim and Donegal, five stations are to close.

The closures will take place next year and follow the closure this year of 39 stations.

Mr Shatter said the 564 that remained compared favourably to similar jurisdictions in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

The Garda Representative Association, which represents almost 11,200 rank-and-file gardaí in a 13,500-strong force, was critical of the closure plans.

It said the loss to the community will be “immeasurable”, adding the plan was being put in place with no consultation.

“Patrols will be reduced and a safe breeding ground for future criminals will fill the void,” said association president John Parker.

“Jaw-dropping cynicism”

Fianna Fáil accused Mr Shatter of “jaw-dropping cynicism” following his decision to announce the plans on Budget day.However, Mr Shatter and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said the service to the State would not be compromised and would improve.

Mr Shatter said the station closures, or “consolidations” as he called them, would save money but were not being driven by a cost-cutting agenda. “ more effective policing service can be delivered in the areas concerned. The consolidation will free up from desk duties to frontline policing.”

He also pointed to resources being invested into the Garda despite the financial challenges facing the State.

A total of 213 new Garda vehicles were acquired in 2012 at a cost of €4 million, and a further €5 million would be available to expand and modernise the fleet in 2013, which will help gardaí police rural areas, according to the Minister.

Mr Callinan said the changes would be “challenging” for the force and the public. However, the “clustering of services at policing hubs” would free up members for “increased Garda visibility and patrol hours”.

“Worst suspicions”

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins said the decision “confirms the worst suspicions of those who have accused the Minister of being soft on crime and soft on the causes of crime. Removing the Garda presence from communities on such a large scale at a time when the rate of burglaries has increased significantly makes absolutely no sense,” he said. “The presence of a local Garda station, however small, acts as a deterrent to criminals who target vulnerable households . . . Minister Shatter is stripping 100 communities of yet another essential local service.”

*This article was edited at 12.15pm on Thursday, December 6th