The Government recouped just €3.2m from the sale of more than 40 Garda stations, a total described as “derisory”, writes Stephen Rogers.
Figures provided by Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, minister of state for the Office of Public Works, reveal that 42 stations were sold between 2014 and 2017, raising a total of €3.228m.
That works out at an average of less than €77,000 per closed station building.
While the most expensive station, Mallow Rd in Cork, sold for €260,000, others sold for a fraction of that price.
Crossakiel Station in Meath sold for €6,000, while Rathowen Station in Westmeath and Ballacolla Station in Laois sold for €15,000 each.
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan criticised the Government’s decision to sell the stations in the first place.
“The fact that the Government only secured €3.2m for the sale of closed Garda stations reveals that this was a shortsighted and pointless policy,” he said.
“The public was told that these Garda stations needed to be closed and sold in order to save costs.
“We now see that the financial saving has been derisory, yet the social cost has been enormous.”
Mr O’Callaghan said the closure of Garda stations, particularly those in rural areas, has had a detrimental impact on local communities and the confidence that people have in their own safety.
“The Government needs to reverse this shortsighted policy and stop selling Garda stations that it has closed,” he said.
The Department of Justice said the aim of closing Garda stations was to promote “the more efficient and effective deployment of resources rather than to secure modest cash savings”.
It said Garda management had decided that, in relation to certain stations, resources could be better deployed and more effectively used on the frontline if those stations no longer had to be staffed and maintained.
The €3m made by the Government from the sale of the stations is the same amount as the Government last year committed to putting into rural CCTV cameras to help communities deal with crime.
In recent weeks, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan appeared to admit that the scheme was not working, saying that applications for cameras were “well below expectations” — just six successful applications as of November.
The Irish Farmers’ Association said there is a need for a well-staffed, visible Garda force throughout rural areas.
“The allocation of gardaí to rural areas is important to both tackle crime and to give a greater sense of security to those living in rural Ireland,” said IFA national treasurer Jer Bergin.
At the end of 2017, the Garda commissioner recommended six closed Garda stations be reopened on a pilot basis: Ballinspittle, Co Cork; Bawnboy, Co Cavan; Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow; Donard, Co Wicklow, and Rush and Stepaside in Dublin.
The inclusion of Stepaside — which is in Transport Minister Shane Ross’s constituency — caused controversy. Assistant Garda Commissioner for Dublin Pat Leahy said it “wouldn’t have been my number one priority”.
Fianna Fáil TD Shane Cassells said it was “going to cause huge anger in the rest of the country, especially in rural Ireland where 139 stations were closed or scaled down to buzzer boxes and at the same time they see pictures of the smiley head of Shane Ross holding up a poster with his local councillor saying, ‘I’ve got you Stepaside reopened’.”
The fear of crime in rural areas has seen Independent TD for Roscommon-South Leitrim Michael Fitzmaurice suggest that elderly people living in secluded areas be allowed to arm themselves with pepper spray and Tasers.
Muintir na Tíre, the National Association for Community Development, has warned that the issue of crime, and particularly the fear of crime, remains a very serious issue throughout rural Ireland.