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Concerns over future of North Offaly garda stations

Sunday, 8th April, 2012 11:30am

Story by Laura Ryder
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Concerns over future of North Offaly garda stations

Barry Cowen is concerned for the future of Offaly garda stations.

Fears are growing over the future of Garda stations in Rhode, Daingean and Clonbullogue.

It follows confirmation by the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter that there would be a further "rationalisation" of the garda station network, on top of the stations already announced for closure.

Addressing the annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, Shatter said that there was no need for such a large number of stations across the State.

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has now called on Shatter "to immediately clarify how many stations he intends to shut down in Offaly and Laois this year" along with the identified savings from such a move.

Deputy Cowen said plans to close additional Garda stations on top of the 39 nationwide that became non-operational last Friday are simply a "fresh attack" on rural Garda stations and a "sustained attack" on community policing.

"Minister Shatter went to great lengths last year to play down the extent of garda station closures and the impact this policy would have on local communities," Deputy Cowen said. "He said the number of closures would be 'very small' and there was no 'reason for any community anywhere in the country to be alarmed'.

But now it seems that the stations Minister Shatter shut down at the weekend were just phase one of a larger plan to target local garda stations for severe cuts this year. The result is that more garda stations across the Midlands are facing closure in the coming months."

Deputy Cowen said the Minister has serious questions to answer regarding the savings made from the closures. "He has attempted to justify this as a purely cost-saving exercise and yet he has been forced to admit that he was unable to identify the cost of running Geashill garda station," Deputy Cowen said. "People are struggling to understand how he can decide which garda stations to close if he doesn't know how much each station costs to run."

Deputy Cowen said that the latest threats of garda cuts are causing fear in communities across Offaly. "Minister Shatter must confirm the future of all garda station in this county," he said.

A written answer from Minister Shatter on March 21 to a parliamentary question posed by Dara Calleary regarding the future of Rhode, Clonbullogue and Daingean garda stations stressed that the key objective of station closures is to promote the more efficient and effective deployment of resources rather than secure modest cash savings.

The answer also said a policing plan for 2013 has not yet been prepared and therefore any further station closure plans it may contain is impossible to predict.

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