Hopes barracks will be a tourist mecca

Its death warrant may not come into effect until the end of the month, but already the lights are out at the Garda station in Ballyduff in Co Waterford, after it was designated for closure under the Government’s latest plan.

While the move came as no shock to the local people, and while other areas may suffer more from rural crime, it still marks the end of a chapter of local history stretching back to 1926.

The station in Ballyduff is one of two, along with Stradbally, whose policing will be done from Leamybrien in future, in the county condemned to closure.

“We lost a branch of Glanbia here, the post office is gone, and other things have gone so it’s the latest in a long line of things to go,” Ballyduff community council chairman Paddy Aherne said.

“To be honest, there was no one surprised but that doesn’t make us any less disappointed.”

He said the Garda station in Ballyduff, located along a straight line with the metal bridge and the community hall, is an “iconic building” with greater potential than your average village barracks — but only in public hands.

“It’s very limited in its development potential or for a private individual,” he says, “because it’s a listed building and not really suitable for much, but it’s one of the main things associated with Ballyduff.”

Chairman of the local Comhaltas Ceoltoirí Éireann branch is Tom Hyland, who says the main priority of the people of Ballyduff, long since resigned to the elimination of a permanent Garda presence in their midst, is to ensure the building remains in use and remains part of local life.

“There’s a very strong community spirit around here and very active committees like Comhaltas and the community council and the dramatic society.

“The barracks itself is a beautiful building and there could be lots of little ventures there, like a museum or displaying the history of the area. It’s something that could be a real tourist attraction.”

Contacts have already been made with the powers-that-be, through the offices of local Fine Gael TD John Deasy, and it will fall to the OPW to decide the future of what’s soon to be the former Garda station in Ballyduff.

“It’s a lovely stone building, still in good condition,” as Mr Hyland points out.

Meanwhile, with Lismore about 8km away and home to a full-time Garda station, the locals are not in the business of crying wolf when it comes to any crime in their village. “If anything happened, they’d be in fairly quick and one of the guards in Lismore lives in Ballyduff anyway.”

He adds that people “have got used to the idea of having just one garda around for a couple of hours during the day” over the years, while Ballyduff wouldn’t be known as an Irish version of Dodge City.

Asked if burglaries and rural crime are regarded as a pressing problem in this area of about 500 people, Mr Hyland answers candidly. “No, no. Very little. Long may it last.”

Paddy Aherne says hopes are high that a new chapter can be written in the tale of the Ballyduff Garda barracks: “We have the community but just need to find a use for the building that would be able to pay its way.”

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