Shatter insists stations will close despite protests
Stepaside residents protest over the closure of the local Garda station last week. Photograph: Cyril Byrne.
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has insisted Stepaside garda station in Dublin will close despite a protest earlier today of 1,500 locals against the move.
Residents of Stepaside at the demonstration were urged to “block up” the telephones of the Department of Justice and local Government TDs, including Mr Shatter, in an effort to reverse the decision to close the garda station.
Shane Ross, Independent TD for the area, told the crowd this afternoon the four other TDs were “duty bound to support you in this mission”.
“I would urge you to block up the telephones and the emails of the Department of Justice so they can’t do any business and they’ll realise what the depth of public opinion is here,” he said.
But in a statement hours later Mr Shatter said Stepaside garda station was among those identified in the Garda Commissioner’s Policing Plan for closure and he was not going to “second guess” that assessment. “I have not done so in the context of garda stations to be closed in other parts of the country and neither will I do so in my own constituency,” he added.
Stepaside garda station is the largest station among 100 closures to go ahead this year. Last Thursday 95 stations were closed. Campaigners argue that the 20,000-strong community that takes in Stepaside and parts of Glencullen, Sandyford, Carrickmines and Leopardstown would leave them vulnerable.
“The police station is serving an area bigger than most towns,” mayor of Stepaside Bobby Gahan told the protesters. He called for the decision to be deferred so that an assessment of the move could be carried out.
“I have no doubt there was no thought put into the closing of this station,” said Martin Donnellan, former assistant garda commissioner.
Finian McGrath, Independent TD for Dublin North Central, said: “Minister Alan Shatter, you are destroying communities if you close garda stations in communities that need them”.
Kathleen Byrne, principal of St Patrick’s national school in Glencullen, said future generations of children would suffer if there was no garda station in the town because security concerns would increase and the bond with the local force would be lost. “I ask the Minister for Justice to keep our garda station open, to keep our gardaí here and to keep our community safe,” she said.
Before the speeches a minutes silence was observed for Det Garda Adrian Donohoe who was shot dead during a robbery in Co Louth just over a week ago.
Earlier a human chain was formed outside the Stepaside garda station, where 34 officers are stationed.One local resident John Byrne said afterwards he was involved in the protest because of concerns over a “large spate of burglaries” in recent years. “The building of the M50 and the Luas has been of huge benefit to the area but has been of huge benefit to people wanting to get out here to carry out burglaries,” he said.
Demelza Muldoon said she lived in an apartment block with her husband and baby and there had been a number of break-ins. “The gardaí are great at coming down and it makes you feel more secure knowing they are nearby,” she said.
(The map above 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.)