The new Garda Dublin command centre will be too small to accommodate its current roster of personnel because the eventual growth in the force’s numbers was not known at the time of tender.
The OPW, the State’s public property management agency and the body charged with building the new centre in Kilmainham, Dublin, said “the extent of the increase in Garda numbers was not known prior to the lodging of planning permission”.
“In addition, the appointment of the new Garda Commissioner in September 2018 led to a new Garda operational model which impacted on Garda numbers,” a spokesperson for the OPW said.
Previously, this newspaper revealed that the €86m Military Road build in Kilmainham will only accommodate 850 personnel.
By comparison, the current command centre at Harcourt Square had 1,080 people in 2016, while the figures are believed to have increased in the interim.
In response to a series of queries as to how Military Road was selected as a replacement for Harcourt Square, the OPW said an evaluation panel comprising staff from the Department of Justice, the OPW, and An Garda Síochána concluded in November 2015 that Military Road was the “most suitable” replacement site from a shortlist of six.
The evaluation criteria were “location, operational requirements, security, physical site, and transport/site access”, the spokesperson said.
Expansion capacity and future-proofing were not listed as a criterion for individual site evaluation in the OPW’s response. A revised tender for the build, dating from 2019, saw the planned size of the site drop by 10% to 10,060 square metres.
Despite the new building only holding 850 people, the OPW said “the numbers of staff being accommodated… meet the specifications and brief as requested of the OPW at the time the site was selected".
“However, a range of strategic modernisation initiatives undertaken by the Garda Commissioner in recent years has led to an increase in numbers in the specialist bureaus and units attached to Harcourt Square and staffing numbers have increased as a result of the expansion of the Garda workforce,” they said.
The response from the OPW acknowledged that “as part of its overall strategic planning” a number of overspill sites have been identified to account for the shortfall in space at Military Road, including a new control centre at Heuston Station, being developed by Irish Rail and the National Transport Authority.
The spokesperson said the OPW “continues to assist” the gardaí in terms of the force’s property requirements “in line with its workforce plans, insofar as it can anticipate those requirements”.
The Military Road build began construction early last year. It is under a time constraint due to the OPW being contractually obliged to vacate its current command centre on Harcourt Square in the city centre by the end of 2022 or risk paying a breakage fee to the landlord, Hibernia REIT.
The OPW reiterated that the new build “will be fully fitted out by September 2022” and said “the project is on time and on budget”.