The Government is prepared to pay at least €44m towards the cost of Northern Ireland’s new police training college – if it is built in Derry, it was claimed today.
The reports claimed Irish ministers believe the sitting of the academy to train future officers would provide a major economic injection for the struggling north west region and help cement police reforms.
With a possibility of up to 100 Garda recruits taking part in cross-border training, authoritative sources in Belfast and Derry said Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s administration will back the venture provided it goes to Northern Ireland’s second city.
One source close to the negotiations to find a location confirmed Dublin’s unprecedented move.
“Not only are the Irish prepared to put £30 million into this, but they want to put some of their own officers through it,” he said.
But the offer – if it is accepted – is set to meet with fierce unionist resistance.
They have already fought against intense lobbying by Derry businessmen and politicians to bring the state-of-the-art campus to the mainly nationalist city.
The campaign appeared to have collapsed when the city was not on a shortlist of 28 proposed sites.
Under strict criteria the location must include 80 acres of flat land close to a motorway network and within 45-miles of Belfast.
However, sources insisted today that efforts to build the academy close to the River Foyle would heighten with support from Dublin.
One of the key recommendations in Chris Patten’s blueprint for overhauling the Police Service of Northern Ireland included replacing the crumbling Garnerville training compound in east Belfast.
Chief Constable Hugh Orde has slated the site and lobbied on both sides of the Atlantic for support in his bid to secure modern facilities.
Garda chiefs also believe pressure on their college at Templemore, Co Tipperary, could be eased if up to 100 of the 650 recruits who pass through it every year were sent north.