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.
Insisting that towns and cities were subject to the same crime as rural areas, Ms Burton said gardaí had had significant success with the operation, arresting 3,538 people, of whom 1,925 were charged. Operation Fiacla represented some of the best developments in Garda management and the fight against crime, the Minister said.
However, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said the special Garda operation should be more correctly called "Operation Gan Fiacla" because of the lack of resources provided to the Garda. Ms McDonald said the Government was implementing Fianna Fáil's agreement with the EU-IMF troika to cut the police force by 10 per cent from 14,500 to 13,000 by 2014. She also criticised what she described as Fianna Fáil’s "grandstanding" on the issue.
"You reduced the numbers too, by different methods," interjected Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen.
Ms Burton claimed Sinn Féin adopted a two-faced approach to the issue in the North and the South and said the party in government in the North had agreed with the decision to reduce the number of police stations from 140 to 49 by 2015.
However, Ms McDonald insisted the experience of policing in the two jurisdictions was very different over the past 30 years. She asked what compensation communities losing their Garda stations would get and would they be assured of at least having a garda on the beat.
The map below shows the 95 Garda stations due to close on January 31st 2013 (denoted by red markers); five further Garda stations due to close by the year’s end (yellow markers); and the 39 stations which closed in 2012 (purple markers). Clicking on each individual pin will reveal the station name, closure date and overall number of crimes recorded in each station in 2011. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy but where omissions/errors occur please email email@example.com or contact @PorcelinaD on Twitter.
The interactive graphic below shows crime figures for 2011 in the areas where a Garda station is closing.