Purpose-built Garda facility has no space for specialist units

Two bureaus targeting sex offences and online fraud cannot be housed on Military Road

At least two dedicated Garda bureaus tackling crimes in sensitive and increasingly challenging areas, including sexual offences and online frauds, will not be accommodated in the Garda’s main new €90 million Dublin complex because it is too small.

The Irish Times understands personnel from the Garda National Protective Services Bureau and the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau have been told when the Harcourt Square complex in Dublin's south inner city is vacated there will be no room for them in the new complex on Military Road near Phoenix Park.

Security sources said a number of new premises for the bureaus were being examined and that one option under consideration was an industrial unit in Tallaght, west Dublin.

The same sources said such a move would hinder the work of the bureaus and it would pose logistical challenges with meeting victims and would be very time-consuming for detectives attending court appearances, many of which take place in central Dublin.


Court proximity

The new Military Road complex is very close to the Criminal Courts of Justice, which sources said made it an ideal location as it would save valuable time for gardaí attending court appearances, many of which can be very brief.

The protective services bureau investigates sexual offences, which rose to record levels in the Republic three years ago and have continued to climb. The economic crime bureau is the Garda’s lead unit in investigation of online frauds, which have increased very significantly in recent years.

In reply to queries, Garda Headquarters in Phoenix Park said the Office of Public Works (OPW) “has the responsibility for the provision and maintenance” of Garda accommodation. It added “details on the allocation of units at this new facility have yet to be finalised”.

In his latest report to the Policing Authority, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said good progress was being made with the Military Road premises, on which work began in February 2020. He said construction was on target and the premises should be handed over to the OPW to be occupied by September of next year.

Harcourt Square

Mr Harris added the OPW was examining options for housing the units currently in Harcourt Square but for which there would be no space on Military Road. He added "funding will be required to meet the accommodation needs of the bureaus that will not be accommodated in Military Road".

The Harcourt Square premises on Harcourt Street has been the Garda’s national support headquarters for many years. It is an office block on its own campus and houses a wide range of the Garda’s national units. However, it is owned by a commercial landlord and must be vacated, with a new premises at Military Road being built as a base for the Garda units.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has concluded the new €86.6 million premises on Military Road is no longer fit for purpose, even though it is still under construction, because it is too small to fit all of the Garda personnel currently housed in Harcourt Square.

The OPW told the PAC that in 2016 there were 850-890 members of Garda personnel based in Harcourt Square and that the Military Road complex would be sufficient to accommodate the same number of staff upon completion.

However, the PAC report said the OPW also explained that recent increases in Garda personnel, combined with changes to Garda operations, have resulted in other locations being required to house some of the units in Harcourt Square.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times