The Government has made a “meagre” €3.29m from the sale of 43 former garda stations. The State has sold these former garda stations off for an average of just €76,697 in recent years.
The Office of Public Works (OPW) received only €6,000 for one station in Crossakiel, Co Meath, while the most valuable station proved to be the one on Mallow Rd in Cork, which was sold for €260,000.
OPW Minister Kevin Boxer Moran has confirmed that his department sold 43 former Garda stations since 2014 for a total of €3.29m.
Of these, six were sold for less than €20,000 and a further eight were bought for between €20,000 and €50,000. Just two of the 43 stations achieved a sale price of more than €200,000.
If the former station is not needed by the State, the OPW does consider donating the property to community groups on the basis that there will be no further costs to the exchequer.
However, it is understood that the OPW is concerned that many community groups will not be in a position to take over the buildings due to the high cost of insurance.
In 2013, An Garda Síochána announced the closure of 139 garda stations; 40 of those earmarked at that time have been sold, while a further three have been sold separately. Others have been handed over to community groups while six are rescheduled to open again.
Fifty-one former stations have not been sold or repurposed and the OPW has now been requested not to dispose of any further closed garda stations pending the outcome of two reviews, the first of which identified six sites for reopening.
“This second review, carried out by the Garda Inspectorate, was published in December 2018,” said an OPW spokesperson. “Following the publication of the review, the OPW and An Garda Síochána engaged in discussions to determine the future use of the former Garda stations.
“Following these discussions, An Garda Síochána advised the OPW in May 2019 that 47 of the 51 former Garda stations are surplus to requirements. The OPW is now processing these 47 properties in accordance with its disposal policy.”
Social Democrat TD for Kildare North Catherine Murphy said some of the buildings have been sold off for “meagre” sums and called on the OPW to fully engage with local communities groups before putting properties on the market.
“The disposal, for want of a better word, of a State asset is something that must be given a thorough evaluation,” she said. “Some of the stations have been sold off for what are fairly meagre sums if you stand them up against property valuations nationally over the past number of years.”
A spokesperson for the OPW said that when looking at these properties, if no State requirement is identified, or if a decision is taken not to dispose of a particular property, the OPW “may consider community involvement, subject to detailed written submission, which would indicate that the community/ voluntary group has the means to insure, maintain, and manage the property and that there are no ongoing costs for the exchequer”.
Ms Murphy said there must be a greater effort made to work with community groups when decisions are made to sell these properties.
“The benefit to the State cannot be based purely on the financial aspects,” she said. “There’s social, cultural, and educational benefits to retaining some of the stations for new uses. We can see that illustrated with Valentia Island, Barrack St in Cork, and Whitehall in Dublin.”
Ten closed stations have been repurposed and are back in use by the State, while a further nine have been licenced to community groups. This includes the station on Barrack St in Cork, which is now open to the public as part of the popular Elizabeth Fort tourist experience.