139 rural Garda stations to remain shut

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has ruled out reopening 139 Garda stations closed because of the economic crash.

Ms Fitzgerald, who has come under fire because of the station closures and an apparent rise in rural crime, says there is no plan to reopen the stations, which were shut in 2013.

In an interview with the Irish Examiner, she said there were large parts of the country where crime rates were much lower and hence the concentration of gardaí was not required to be as great as in other areas.

Asked if she was considering bowing to pressure from opposition politicians to reopen the stations, Ms Fitzgerald replied strongly: “No, not at all”.

“This goes back to smart policing and putting gardaí where they are needed, there are the figures which show some areas of the country have far less crime than others,” she said.

She added: “What you have to do is give the gardaí the technology. People say you need the Garda station in order to have local knowledge.

“What we are doing is around the country, you may not have a station but you will have a garda responsible for that area, going out working with community alert.”

Ms Fitzgerald pointed to the fact that she has doubled the funding for community-alert schemes, which is key.

She also referred to Operation Storm in Kilkenny — which sees co-operation between the gardaí, the community, and businesses to tackle crime — as a model to follow.

Ms Fitzgerald has been severely criticised for not reversing the position on the closed Garda stations, especially since the Government has spent €846,560 to date maintaining closed stations. That works out at an average of €7,000 per property per year.

Some 139 Garda stations have closed since 2011, and a number have since been sold.

This is in contrast to direct savings of €556,000 per year which have been made through the closure of the stations under the Garda district and station rationalisation programme.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins has said the fact that the Government saved just over €500,000 from the closure of 139 stations demonstrates just how counter-productive the entire policy has been.

He said: “It has been clear to us from day one that this policy was very dangerous. We can now see exactly the serious impact the policy has had on rural communities.

“Towns across the country feel increasingly isolated and more vulnerable to criminals.

“The closure of rural Garda stations in some cases accelerated the decline of some communities as private sector took its lead from the Government’s decision to withdraw state services,” he said.


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