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Question

337. Deputy Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a full assessment has been carried out on the refurbishment costs for Sligo Garda station, including costs such as those incurred for deep retrofitting and procurement of space when refurbishment is ongoing; and the details of same. [13691/20]

338. Deputy Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a comparative assessment has been done on the cost of a full refurbishment of Sligo Garda station; the cost of a new build on the site already purchased for this purpose; and the details of same. [13692/20]

339. Deputy Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the rationale and time frame for reversing a decision in view of the fact that political commitments to construct a new Garda station in Sligo were in place, including the purchase of a greenfield site for same. [13694/20]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Helen McEntee): I propose to take Questions Nos. 337 to 339, inclusive, together.
At the outset it is important to be clear that the Garda Commissioner is by law responsible for the management and control of An Garda Síochána and for the effective and efficient use of Garda resources. Further, the Office of Public Works (OPW) has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation. Works in relation to Garda accommodation are therefore progressed by the Garda authorities working in close cooperation with the OPW.
The overall purpose of the Garda Building and Refurbishment Programme 2016-2021 is to address deficiencies in the Garda estate and provide fit-for-purpose facilities for Garda members and staff as well as the public interacting with them. The programme is continuing to make progress at a range of locations around the country.
A Public Private Partnership (PPP) project was included in this programme and at the time of launch, it was intended to deliver three new Garda stations- namely a new District Headquarters at Macroom, a new District Headquarters at Clonmel and a new Regional / Divisional Headquarters in Sligo. As the Deputy will recall, it was unfortunately the case that there were significant delays in relation to this intended PPP, due in the first instance to lengthy processes for acquisition of sites at all relevant locations.
At the same time, very significant developments were occurring in relation to policing in Ireland. The report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland was published and is now being taken forward under the 4-year implementation plan A Policing Service for our Future.
In keeping with that report and implementation plan, the Garda Commissioner last year announced a new Operating Model for An Garda Síochána. This new Operating Model reorganises resources around the delivery of frontline policing, placing an increased emphasis on Gardaí being out visibly on patrol, engaging with communities, preventing crime and supporting victims. As part of the reduction of bureaucracy and streamlining of administrative processes, the number of Garda Regions and Divisions is being reduced and additional power will be devolved to local level so as to enable the delivery of better and more localised policing services nationwide.
Clearly, this new model also has implications for Garda accommodation requirements. Following a review of its accommodation requirements , the Commissioner and his management team decided that the PPP should proceed to deliver new stations in Macroom and in Clonmel. However, the Commissioner determined that the provision of a new station at Sligo should not proceed as part of the PPP.
Sligo station is undergoing a very extensive refit and I understand that this is felt to be a more appropriate and much faster way of delivering a modern Garda Station for Sligo, in accordance with its role in the new Garda Operating Model and having regard to the fact that the current location of the station is considered optimum from the operational perspective.
It is however important to note that, while it was decided that delivery of a new station in Sligo under the PPP was no longer justified, the Commissioner decided that the upgrading of the existing station to a high standard will continue.
The Commissioner's decision was communicated to my Department by letter received on 2 January 2020.
I understand that significant remedial works have already taken place in the existing station, including the complete upgrade of the three floors in the building containing the public office and the provision of new locker facilities. I understand that further upgrades are progressing and include the provision of new cells and custody management facilities.
I am advised by the OPW that property maintenance personnel are currently on site in Sligo working on internal upgrade works at the station, to provide a new custody suite including new cells built to current standards, prisoner processing, interview, solicitor and doctor's rooms. I understand that the existing cells were not considered suitable for upgrading and the new cells are located in a different section of the building, requiring adjacent prisoner processing facilities. I understand that these works are currently due to be completed in December 2020. I am further advised that the OPW is currently preparing a tender package to provide facilities for a scene of crimes unit.
In general I understand from the Garda authorities and the OPW that further upgrades will ensure that Garda accommodation needs in Sligo are addressed and that the station is upgraded to meet the future operational requirements of Garda members, staff and the public who use it.
In relation to expenditure, the following table, furnished to me by the OPW, details expenditure since 2017 and to date in 2020 on Sligo Garda Station including expenditure by the OPW drawing down on funds in both the Garda and the OPW votes.

Year Expenditure on Sligo Garda Station (combined total, OPW and Garda Votes as paid by OPW)
2017 €58,362
2018 €116,117
2019 €711,093
2020 (to date) €143,275
The Deputy will appreciate that this demonstrates the scale of the works which have been underway to ensure that Sligo Garda station is fit-for-purpose and meets the needs of An Garda Síochána.