The battle to save Co Leitrim’s garda stations looks set to step up a notch with the Minister for Justice confirming he wants more garda stations closed in a bid to get more gardai on the frontline.
Speaking at the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors conference in Co Wexford on Monday night, Minister Shatter said he did not believe that 703 stations are needed in such a small country and he warned that more closures should be expected in 2013.
Thirty nine Garda stations around the country have already been closed or are facing closure as part of cutbacks in this year’s budget.
Locally, Kiltyclogher Garda Station closed last week and Drumkeerin Garda Station is expected to close shortly.
“The Garda Commissioner will, I expect next autumn, will be preparing his plan, his police plan for 2013,” said Minister Shatter at the conference.
“I expect it’s likely that there will be additional stations closed, to ensure that we use the resources in the most efficient manner we can to provide the best policing service we can and this is going to get more members of the force available for frontline policing.”
The news will come as a massive blow to campaigners who have been battling to save Drumkeerin’s station from closure. Over 900 signatures have already been collected on a petition to save the barracks from closure.
Drumkeerin garda station is relatively new and it is the only station which has been earmarked for closure operating with a sergeant and two gardai.
Speaking at last Monday’s Council meeting, Cllr Mary Bohan said she was incredibly disappointed by the response of Minister Shatter to correspondence from the Council on the closures.
She observed that Minister Shatter had emphasised the importance of developing a partnership between the gardai and the community in his letter to Leitrim County Council.
“Well this decision to close rural garda stations flies in the face of that,” she said.
She accused the Minister of “paying lip service” to the concerns raised by communities like Drumkeerin and pointed out that no explanation had ever been offered for the closure of garda stations in Co Leitrim.
Cllr Bohan also argued that any savings would be minimal as the largest outgoing was for garda salaries and these would still have to be paid as the gardai involved were going to be relocated elsewhere.
She called on the Chamber to support her proposal to seek a meeting with Minister Shatter on the issue.
“I’m think that Minister Shatter is totally out of touch with the constituency on this issue,” she said.
Her call was supported by the remaining councillors who agreed that, with rising crime rates, it was even more crucial to see rural garda stations remaining open.
Councillors also denounced the closure of Kiltyclogher and said that this had left the community in a very vulnerable position.