Garda units HQ ‘will not be big enough’

A major new headquarters planned for specialist Garda units will not be big enough to accommodate all personnel currently based in its existing building in Harcourt Square, the acting Garda commissioner has warned.

Garda units HQ ‘will not be big enough’

Based on a budget of €80m allocated to the project, Dónall Ó Cualáin has told the Policing Authority that the proposed new building for the Garda National Support Services on Military Road in Kilmainham will not accommodate existing staff numbers.

Mr Ó Cualáin claimed additional funding will be required to find alternative offices for some staff currently based in Harcourt Square when they are forced to move out in four years’ time.

More than 1,000 staff are working in the Harcourt Square complex which houses specialist units including the Criminal Assets Bureau, Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Unit.

Following a protracted row, the OPW agreed

a new non-renewable six-year lease on the Harcourt Square complex with the building’s owners, Hibernia REIT, in December 2016.

The property development company had not wanted to renew the lease as it had plans to redevelop the site for other commercial purposes.

Mr Ó Cualáin said the arrangement created an imperative for the new headquarters to be developed at Military Road before the end of 2022.

The new building is planned to be seven storeys in height over two floors of basement parking with office space of 11,100sq m.

Mr Ó Cualáin has called on the OPW and the Department of Justice to provide confirmation and reassurance that “long-term, fit-for-purpose accommodation” will be provided for all Garda units that will not be accommodated at Military Road.

“This will require additional funding which is a matter that needs to be addressed with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform by the OPW and the Department of Justice,” said Mr Ó Cualáin.

He said the force would require sight of the OPW’s proposals for staff who would not be accommodated in the new Military Road building as soon as possible.

Mr Ó Cualáin is set to retire in September following confirmation earlier this week of the appointment of a new Garda commissioner, Drew Harris, the current deputy chief constable of the PSNI.

Drew Harris
Drew Harris

Garda management has also complained about the lack of funding for extra accommodation required as a result of the increase in the size of the force in the past few years.

Mr Ó Cualáin said budgetary constraints this year are presenting a significant risk in the force’s capacity to deliver on its building programme and modernisation and renewal programme as well as targets in its annual policing plan.

He said the budget for maintenance and small capital works had suffered a substantial cut this year to €642,000 when the force’s requirement was for €3.4m. Expenditure on similar work last year had cost €4,3m.

Mr Ó Cualáin said even with €3.4m in funding, An Garda Síochána would still find itself in an unsustainable position to meet a range of office requirements including space to accommodate extra staff.

He claimed the accommodation issue had now been given the maximum risk rating in terms of problems faced by the organisation.

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