More than half of Garda residences empty, OPW survey finds
Ninety-nine of 221 properties inhabited, with only 12 of remainder deemed habitable
The 221 barracks and houses attached to Garda stations which were surveyed by the OPW are located mostly in rural areas.
More than half of all official Garda residences around the country are lying empty.
The latest survey of barracks and houses attached to stations, carried out by the force and the Office of Public Works (OPW) in April this year, found 221 properties.
It further found that only 99 were inhabited, and 122 were vacant. Of the empty houses, 12 were considered to be “habitable”. The houses are for the most part in rural areas.
Seán Sherlock, Labour’s justice spokesman, said the scale of empty residences “makes no sense” during a housing crisis and when people were “crying out” for the presence of gardaí in rural communities in particular.
“There is an opportunity being missed here whereby more gardaí and their families could be living in rural locations, even in they are not stationed there officially, at a reasonably low cost,” he said.
“It could also mean a garda living in a community where there isn’t a permanent Garda station.
“For what could be modest capital expenditure, it is a shame that these houses will eventually end up in rack and ruin if they are not refurbished.”
Mr Sherlock said the cost of maintaining the empty properties “could immediately be offset if you put a guard into the house”.
“He or she will be maintaining it themselves, heating it, keeping the gardens, maintaining the structure, so the State will not be incurring that cost.”
Minster of State for Local Government John Paul Phelan told the Dáil last week that the 110 empty properties which are not deemed habitable would require “substantial work”.
But he added: “It would be a wise investment by the OPW.”
“There is an opportunity to get gardaí living in their communities,” Mr Phelan said.
“In addition, these places, mostly villages, have these landmark buildings that are lying vacant. It would be good for those villages to have people living in those buildings as well.”
Mr Sherlock said he had been sent “around the houses” trying to get an answer from Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and Minster of State for the OPW Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran about a serving Garda officer who would like to live in an empty property attached to the Garda station in Buttevant, Co Cork.
“I would dearly love to be able to say to the person who has come to me that their application is being considered seriously, because the applicant is a member of the Garda and this is an official Garda residence, but it seems that somewhere it is getting caught between the Department of Justice and the OPW,” he said.
“It seems that the Commissioners of Public Works, quite simply, do not want to deal with this issue.”