Gardaí asked the OPW to fix the problem with the alert bells at Bandon Garda Station, Co Cork. However, work only started yesterday.
In the interim, the closure of the six cells there and a cell in Clonakilty meant gardaí had to take prisoners to stations as far away as Cork City and Bantry.
In a number of cases, it took gardaí several hours to transfer prisoners to the other stations and process them there.
This meant manpower cover was reduced in their hometowns while they were away. There was also an additional cost to the State in fuel and wear and tear to garda vehicles.
Gardaí were forced to close the cells for health and safety reasons.
The alert bells are used in case a prisoner gets into difficulty or if a garda is attacked in a cell.
A member of the Cork County Joint Policing Committee (JPC) has said the situation is “totally unacceptable” and the OPW will have to come up with far quicker response times for repairs.
“The simple fact of a call bell [alert bell] being broken and not repaired has lead to the closures,” councillor Daithí Ó Donnabháin said. “There is a direction that those arrested should be brought to Bantry Garda Station. Bantry is some 85km from Bandon.
“However, I am aware that gardaí have been forced to bring prisoners to the Bridewell Garda Station in the city as well. That is a round trip of some 60km.
Mr Ó Donnabháin, who is a solicitor, described the situation as “ beyond belief”.
“It has stretched already under-resourced frontline gardaí to breaking point,” he said. “It has been the case for several weeks that if gardaí in the Bandon area had reason to arrest someone, they could be out of frontline patrol and policing for three or four hours.
“Frontline gardaí have expressed utter frustration to me at the situation. It appears that Garda authorities have followed the necessary channels of requesting the OPW to do the works, but until yesterday it wasn’t being done.”
Mr Ó Donnabháin said he would be raising the issue at the next Cork County JPC on July 27 and asking if a system could be introduced to speed up such repairs in future.
Chief Superintendent Tom Hayes, who is in charge of policing West Cork, said gardaí were continually reviewing health and safety for prisoners, which includes cell accommodation and did this in conjunction with the force’s professional standards unit.
“The work is ongoing and we expected it to be completed as soon as possible,” he said.