The re-opening of Garda stations will be spread between urban and rural areas, depend on local crime trends, and will be given preference where they can operate again with least delay.
The Government has agreed guidelines for the Garda Commissioner to open six stations around the country, the success of which will be reviewed and could lead to further stations re-opening.
The criteria was agreed after the process to start the re-openings was proposed by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald yesterday and agreed at the weekly cabinet meeting.
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan will decide which six stations should re-open. Stations will need to be in a mix of urban and rural areas, those chosen will depend on local population and crime statistics, and preference will be given to those still in state ownership which can be operational with the least amount of delay, according to a memo presented by Ms Fitzgerald.
Government sources are insisting the decision on the six will solely be a matter for Garda management.
The process and success of those re-openings will then be reviewed by the Policing Authority.
The authority yesterday said it had yet to receive any instruction from the minister about its role. The minister’s spokesman said she was expected to contact the authority this week.
The authority’s review of the six stations is also expected to feed into a larger boundary policing review being carried out by the organisation, and could ultimately result in other stations being identified for re-opening.
However, the process of re-opening the first six stations and ultimately reviewing their success could take many months.
It also remains unclear whether members of the public, local community groups or organisations will get to make submissions to the policing authority about re-openings. Government sources said last night that the public would not have an input into the six openings, which is part of a pilot project and was originally signalled in the programme for government.
Some 139 Garda stations have closed since 2011. Many local communities claim their closures has resulted in increased criminal activity.
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors has specifically linked the upsurge in crime to “the human impact of Garda station closures”.
The last government said Garda management had concluded, in relation to certain stations, that resources could be better deployed and more effectively used on the frontline if those stations no longer had to be staffed and maintained.
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