No time frame for new Sligo Garda station
Local Fine Gael TD says he hopes the budget fallout from the new children’s hospital will not impact on the station
Tony McLoughlin: “I have been raising this every week with the Minister and the OPW, and, indeed, before that with the previous minister Frances Fitzgerald”
Over a year after rank-and-file gardaí in Sligo walked out of their station in protest at conditions there, the Minister for Justice has admitted to local TDs that there is still no time frame for the construction of a new regional headquarters.
Local Fine Gael TD and Government assistant whip Tony McLoughlin said he was “disappointed that the process was taking so long”, while Fianna Fáil’s Marc MacSharry said the project was obviously “on the never never”.
A new site for the Sligo station, which will replace a building dating back to the mid-1800s, was purchased last year, but no progress has been made on the project.
Mr McLoughlin said he “certainly hoped” that the fallout from the escalating budget for the new children’s hospital would not impact on the plan.
“I have been raising this every week with the Minister and the OPW, and, indeed, before that with the previous minister Frances Fitzgerald. ”
He said that while conditions at the existing station, which were described as “third world” in late 2017, had since improved, it was vital that the construction of the new station be progressed as quickly as possible. “The existing station was never fit for purpose, in my opinion.”
Mr McLoughlin said he was aware of speculation about the fallout from the children’s hospital overrun, but “I certainly hope that will not impact the new Sligo station which is not just for Sligo but for the region. We have been given a commitment.”
In late 2017, frontline gardaí walked out of the station following an independent report which highlighted fire-safety issues and other problems such as rodent infestation .
Local GRA representative Ray Wims said gardaí had been given a commitment by Garda management and the Minister that the project would proceed and respected that. “However, in the absence of a verifiable time frame that confidence will erode.”
In response to parliamentary questions, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said the programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation was being progressed by the Garda authorities working in close co-operation with the Office of Public Works (OPW).
He said that a public-private-partnership (PPP) arrangement was intended to deliver new stations at Sligo, Clonmel, Co Tipperary, and Macroom, Co Cork, and that site acquisition for this PPP bundle has been “complex and time-consuming”.
The Minister said it was not possible to provide a time frame for the completion of these projects, but delivery of the three stations was being pursued “as a priority”.
The delay was described as “totally unacceptable” by Mr MacSharry.
“We know Minister Ross manages to prioritise his voters in Stepaside which gardaí admitted was not a priority at the Public Accounts Committee, but the people of Co Sligo are ignored by his Fine Gael colleagues.”
In a statement the OPW confirmed that a site had been purchased at Caltragh , Sligo, in May 2018, and the development of the station would be progressed under the auspices of the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA).