Gardaí vent frustration over dilapidated stations
GRA conference hears officers on verge of walking out if new stations not delivered
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has attended this year’s conference, the theme of which is Preparing for Change. Photograph: Valerie O’Sullivan
Gardaí say they are tired of working in stations where rat and pigeon droppings are a regular hazard and are threatening to walk out unless promised new stations are delivered quicker.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA), which represents about 11,000 rank-and-file gardaí, says conditions in Macroom, Co Cork, Clonmel, Co Tipperary, Newcastlewest, Co Limerick and Sligo town have been unsuitable and dangerous for years.
And while repeated promises had been made to deliver new stations, gardaí based there are still waiting.
Garda Tom Finan of the Tipperary division and Garda Jason Collins for the Cork West division told the closing session of the GRA annual delegate conference in Killarney, Co Kerry, that the patience of officers affected had now run out.
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has said a Public Private Partnership arrangement included in the Garda building and refurbishment programme is intended to deliver new stations in Macroom, Clonmel and Sligo as well as a new custody suite in Anglesea St, Cork.
However, while great efforts had been made to progress the project site acquisitions had proven more complex than expected. The Office of Public Works (OPW) which is responsible for Garda stations, he said, had recently resolved complexities relating to the title of the site for the new station in Clonmel.
His department was offering the OPW all the help it could to ensure the stations could go ahead as planned.
Garda Collins said that back in 1990s gardaí based in Dunmanway station in Co Cork had walked out in protest at a rat infestation there and a similar walk-out was not being ruled out again.
Backed into a corner
“The Dunmanway walkout pushed on that project and they are backing us into that corner again,” he said.
In a review of Macroom station, commissioned by the GRA in 2006, conditions are described as “third world”. The building dates from the 1850s and had been condemned, said Garda Collins.
Garda Finan explained there are 53 members of garda rank working out of Clonmel station, which is in very poor condition.
“Many a minister for justice has been there, including the present minister; local politicians and local Garda management,” he said, adding nothing had been done to bring to an end the “horrendous” conditions.
There are no facilities for female gardaí, who must share a locker room with their male colleagues. Because this issue had been raised repeatedly locally, a new locker room is being built “in a shed out the back” of Clonmel station.
“The cells have been renovated to national standard in recent months, which cost a lot of money,” he said. “That money, in my opinion, should have gone into plans for a new station. But the cells had to be done for the security of prisoners, who are thought more of than Garda members.”
He added not only is space at a premium in the station, as the Garda force is expanding, but pigeons and rats are also an issue. And he believes a decision by a number of young gardaí to resign was due to conditions.
Prisoners had also escaped in the past because the facility was not secured, with one man escaping and only being rearrested having been tasered when tracked down to Cashel, ” said Garda Finan.
In another incident a rat had come up through a toilet in a cell and rat and pigeon droppings regularly needed to be cleaned up at the station.
There are no fire escapes for the upper level in Clonmel. Gardaí would be left with no option but to climb over a toilet and through a window in the event of a fire, said Garda Finan.
“We are talking about these issues for a long time and there is no light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.