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SEANAD ADJOURNMENT DEBATE
WEDNESDAY 30 JANUARY 2013
Senator James Heffernan
To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence to explain the reasons for the selection of Garda Stations to be closed; and to outline what benefit to the state the closure of five Garda Stations in County Limerick will have.
OPENING REMARKS BY Minister Kathleen Lynch on behalf of
ALAN SHATTER, TD, MINISTER FOR JUSTICE, EQUALITY AND DEFENCE
On behalf of the Minister I would like again to express our deep sadness at the brutal murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe who was laid to rest today. May he rest in peace.
The Minister has asked me to thank the Deputy for raising this matter of significant public importance and to have the an opportunity to set out in clear and unambiguous terms the rationalisation of the Garda Station and District network .
In 2012, 39 Garda Stations were closed. 8 of these had not been opened for a number of years. Their closure was a paper exercise which simply recognised reality, a reality concealed by the Minister’s immediate predecessor. Many more were only one or two member stations. This year, following a comprehensive assessment by the Garda Commissioner of the Garda Station network, a further 100 are listed for closure in the Commissioner’s Policing Plan for 2013.
Prior to the closures which took place last year, the Garda station network was essentially the same as the Royal Irish Constabulary network in 1922. Such a large-scale static deployment of resources is no longer appropriate in the present day, where the transport and communications infrastructure have been transformed beyond recognition. The Garda Síochána have a class-leading police computer system, a state-of-the-art digital radio system, and a transport fleet which is currently receiving significant investment. The new Garda roster currently being piloted provides a better match between Garda availability and policing demand. All of these developments enable the Garda Síochána to be more mobile and flexible, and to deliver a more effective policing service.
We also need to be honest about the level of policing service that was capable of being provided from the stations that were and are to be closed. Of the 100 stations to be closed in 2013, 98% are open part-time, 94% are open for 3 hours a day or less, 88% are served by 1 Garda and only 5% are served by 3 or more Garda personnel.
The objective is to maximise the time that our well-trained and highly skilled Gardaí spend on operational duties. After the closures in 2013, (the majority will close on 31 January 2013) there will still be 564 Garda stations in the State. That will still be significantly more than comparable jurisdictions, such as Northern Ireland, where there are 86 stations with a population of 1.5 million people, or Scotland, where there are around 340 stations for a population of 5.2 million. Are the naysayers seriously suggesting that, we should act as if time had stood still since 1922?
Commissioner Callinan has stated that the revised structures will continue to support the Garda community philosophy through the clustering of services at policing hubs. This centralisation of services will facilitate the introduction of enhanced patrolling arrangements which, in turn, will provide increased Garda visibility as well as maintaining existing Garda links with communities throughout the country. The objective will be to ensure that the best possible policing service will continue to be provided to our communities.
In addition, An Garda Síochána has recently acquired a number of vehicles which are being converted into mobile Garda offices and it is planned that they will be assigned to areas where Garda stations have been closed to ensure that members of the public can continue to conduct their business and interact with members of An Garda Síochána.
Gardaí continue to work closely with all communities to enhance community safety through a wide range of local fora such as Community Alert and Neighbourhood Watch. Neither the Minister nor this Government will shirk in our responsibility to do everything we can to ensure that the connection with the Community is not broken and that the best possible resources are made available to An Garda Síochána.
The Minister is confident that members of the Garda Síochána will continue to provide a professional policing service right across the country in a manner that is effective and efficient and is consistent with the highest standards for which the Force is renowned.