Shatter defends station closures
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has defended the closure of 95 Garda stations around the country today, saying local stations "do not act as a deterrent to burglaries".
The closures, which come as part of the Garda District and Station Consolidation Programme announced last year, would free up well-trained members of the force to engage in frontline policing and was not a cost saving measure, the Minister insisted.
"The amount of money that would be saved in respect of the individual stations for heating and light would be relatively small in the context of the overall Garda budget of €1.4 billion per year," he told RTÉ Radio. "What this is about is freeing up members of the force to engage in frontline policing. These closures will result in 61,000 additional patrol hours being available for An Garda Síochána to engage directly in community policing, crime prevention, and crime detection."
In total, 100 Garda stations will close in 2013. Along with the closures, seven Garda stations will have reduced operating hours and the 28 Garda districts are being amalgamated into 14.
Mr Shatter said he understood the concerns local communities had about the closures, but many of the stations in rural areas were only open for a few hours every morning, so the patrol car called out in the middle of the night would not have come from that station anyway.
He said the Government was acting on the recommendations of Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, who carried out a year-long review of the operational needs of the force.
Fianna Fáil social protection spokesman Willie O'Dea accused the Government of ignoring and dismissing the concerns of communities across the country by closing the stations.
In the Dáil today, Mr O'Dea cited the comments by Fr Michael Cusack at the State funeral yesterday of Det Garda Adrian Donohoe, who was murdered during a robbery in Co Louth last week. In his homily, the priest highlighted recent aggravated burglaries in rural areas on elderly homeowners and the fears of people in isolated rural communities who were too terrified to go to sleep at night.
Mr O'Dea referred to the case of a businessman in Co Galway who had been robbed four times in the last six months and a woman in Co Kildare who was robbed twice over the past couple of months by people who travelled by bus to commit the robbery.
Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton acknowledged the priest had spoken "very movingly" about the trauma of people, whether they live in a rural or urban area, who had been subjected to any kind of a robbery or invasion of their home. The Minister said criminals had changed their methods in recent years, increasing their ability to move very rapidly from one part of the country to another. Operation Fiacla had been instigated by the Garda to target such mobile crime, she said.