Edward Street garda station closed down in 1987; Roxboro Road Garda Station took its place Picture: Adrian Butler
SEVERAL former garda stations in Limerick that were shut down over the past 30 years are still vacant, and local representatives are urging the Government to hand over the idle properties to community groups.
Last week, Minister of State for Public Expenditure Sean Canney released an extensive list of State-owned properties that remain vacant in Ireland, identifying the seven sites in Limerick.
Edward Street garda station in the city centre shut its doors in 1987. And since then, the building located next to the Lord Edward Street site where 80 new housing units are to be constructed, has been lying vacant.
The second-longest vacancy in Limerick is at the former Mayorstone Park garda station, on Mayorstone Drive, which closed down in 2000 and was replaced by the current Mayorstone station.
The remaining vacant sites include Shanagolden and Castletown Conyers, which were closed in 2012, followed by Kilfinane, Galbally, and Mary Street in 2013. The properties listed by the Minister are currently owned by the Office of Public Works.
The Limerick Leader understands that Limerick City and County Council is looking to acquire the Edward Street and Mary Street sites.
In September 2015, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said that each closure has saved the taxpayer €4,000 per annum.
Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan said it is “perplexing” to see the Lord Edward Street site go unused for so long, and is calling on the OPW to engage with the council on using the sites for housing.
“Sometimes in this country, they [departments] don’t play ball with each other. For instance, the OPW would be looking for money off the council, and for a site that they have nothing to do with, or have no plans for. And you think that they would come together, in the middle of a housing crisis, and cut through the red tape, and help each other out.”
Cathaoirleach of the Cappamore-Kilmallock district, Cllr Eddie Ryan said that Galbally’s situation is “unique”, as a garda has expressed an interest in renting the property.
Previously, two gardaí resided in the station and left after purchasing a house elsewhere.
“I know a garda who will rent our garda station, who is within the Bruff district, and I have been trying very hard to secure this, but I cannot get an answer from anybody from the OPW. Our second issue is that the building is up for sale, and it will probably be sold for a song. The disappointing part of this is that we have a guard who wants to rent it.”
Labour councillor Frankie Daly has suggested that the old Mayorstone station should be used for elderly outreach services and a social spot in the community.
Independent councillor Emmett O’Brien said that the closure and “fire sale” of garda stations was a “short-sighted move and will have generational consequences leaving rural communities abandoned and at the mercy of roving criminal gangs”.
Cllr O’Brien is also calling on the Government to lease the property to community groups in the areas.
Councillor Adam Teskey said with the cooperation of the community, heritage groups could use a central location like the former Shanagolden garda station.
“I think the heritage groups are crying out for a central point, where they can bring together their findings and leave there for future generations to look at.”