‘Ross did it’ - plan to reopen Stepaside Garda station pleases locals

Mick McDonald (76) says move to ease crime fears and ‘we can have a good night’s sleep now’

 

About a year after the Garda staion in Stepaside in south Dublin closed, local publican John McCluskey says he had a handgun put to his head as he left his Step Inn premises.

“In the 20 years prior to that I knew the two previous owners [and] there was never an issue,” he says. “There was a police station across the road so what robber in his right mind would try anything?”

Thankfully for McCluskey the thugs left empty handed and he was not too badly shaken up by the incident. However, he insists it should never have happened.

The publican’s story exemplifies a local point of view - if you close down a Garda station on the fringes of Dublin it will foster crime that may not previously have been common.

“From a community perspective a lot of people were worried about what seemed like an increase in burglaries and break-ins, especially within a mile radius of here,” McCluskey says.

He believes former minister for justice and local TD Alan Shatter was “brave enough” to personally defend the move in 2013 but that his vision of a “smart policing” alternative never seemed to materialise.

As talk of the station’s reopening spread around Stepaside on Friday, many agreed its closure cost Shatter’s his Dáil seat in the last election. On the other hand, Minister for Transport and local TD Shane Ross was reaping political dividends from news of its reopening appearing in Friday’s papers.

“‘The stations is opening, the station is opening! Ross did it.’ Five people said that to me this morning,” says McCluskey.

Community effort

Local postmaster Des Kennedy and butcher Michael Fleming were among the business people who took part in the community effort to try to get the station back in use. Kennedy says all the local TDs responded to what the residents insisted was a rising crime rate, particularly when it came to burglaries.

“It was more people coming in off the M50 [to commit crime] knowing that Stepaside was a soft touch,” Fleming says.

Standing outside the Garda station, which very much looks like an abandoned building, Kennedy says that despite the news there is still some apprehension about what it will actually mean.

Stepaside is in a fast growing part of Dublin with thousands of homes planned in the neighbouring Kilternan area. Residents are seeking assurances that the station will be resourced to look after the expanding community.

“In general the people in the area feel like they are vulnerable. That hasn’t really improved,” Kennedy says.

Mick McDonald (76), a retired plasterer who was shopping with his wife in the local Centra, said a sense of insecurity had been lifted by the development. “Everybody will be delighted, happier and safe. We can have a good night’s sleep now.”