One hundred garda stations are to shut in the most radical restructuring of the force since the foundation of the State.
The main Garda staff association said the closures would “sever” connections between communities and local gardaí and produce a “safe breeding ground” for future criminals.
Fianna Fáil accused the Government of a “sustained effort to degrade the Gardaí’s presence” in communities.
The massive raft of closures was announced as €62m was cut from the Department of Justice budget for 2013, including €39m from the Garda budget.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter said it was “bizarre” that the station network should be based on what was inherited from the British early in the last century, when gardaí were on bicycles.
He said 98% of the 100 stations were only open part-time, most for three hours or less a day, and nearly 90% of the stations had just one garda on duty.
He said much of what happens in the stations was the signing of passports or organising dog licences.
“We don’t need to keep a single garda in a station for three hours in case four people come in to get their passports signed,” he said.
Mr Shatter said the gardaí in the stations would be freed up from desk duties for patrols and “smart” policing, based on intelligence on the movements of criminals.
Of the 100 closures:
* 30 are in the Western Region: 10 in Galway, eight in Clare and six each in Mayo and Roscommon/Longford
* 22 are in the Southern Region: nine in Kerry, seven in Cork (four in Cork City and three in Cork West) and six in Limerick
* 20 are in the Northern Region: nine in Sligo/Leitrim, six in Cavan/Monaghan and five in Donegal
* 14 are in the Eastern Region: four in Westmeath, three each in Laois/Offaly and Kildare and two each in Wicklow and Meath
* 12 in the South Eastern Region: five in Tipperary, four in Kilkenny/Carlow and three in Waterford
* 2 in Dublin: Stepaside and Kil-O’Grange
The closures follow the shutting down of 39 stations last year. Mr Shatter said that after all the closures there will still be 564 stations, compared to 86 in the North and 340 in Scotland.
He said the two biggest stations to close were in Stepaside, in his constituency, and Kil-O’Grange, in Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore’s constituency.
Opening hours of stations are being reduced in seven stations. Six are in Cork City (Bridewell, Mayfield, Watercourse, Gurranabraher and Togher) and Dublin airport.
In addition, 28 garda districts are being reduced to 14.
Mr Shatter said €5m was going on providing 170 new garda vehicles, with €24m allocated for construction to start on a new Cork Prison.
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