New garda boss appointed to Newcastle West district

Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Norma Prendiville

Eamon O'Neill to take up new role next month

Eamon O'Neill to take up new role next month

THE Newcastle West garda district is to get a new superintendent.

Supt Eamon O’Neill will take up the post on November 1, following the retirement of Supt Tom O’Connor.

But Supt O’Neill, who is currently superintendent in Midleton, Co Cork,  is no stranger to Newcastle West, having served as an inspector there from 2010 to 2012.

“I am glad to be coming back to home ground,” he told the Limerick Leader this week. “Having worked there and since coming to Midleton, I am acutely aware of what needs to be done in rural policing. I will be looking very closely at Supt Tom O’Connor’s plan, and knowing him I have no doubt he had a very robust plan, and I will be taking a lead from that.”

A native of Kilteely-Dromkeen, Supt O’Neill is a former chairman of Ballylanders GAA club and a former handball champion.

He was, he added, very familiar with the Newcastle West area and the people there.

One of the issues facing him will be that of upgrading and extending accommodation for the members of the force and the civil servants who work out of the station in Newcastle West.

The  amalgamation of the Newcastle West and Askeaton garda districts in 2013 led to increased numbers  working there and led also to a call for a new station  from Deputy Patrick O’Donovan, then a backbencher but now a Minister for State. “It is probably one of the biggest garda districts in the country now,” he said at the time.” The station was built for a different era. The numbers have outgrown the station. It hasn’t been extended to reflect the expansion of the area and its importance as the district headquarters in the county town.”

The station was built in the 1970s and the only extension since has been the addition of a portakabin following President George W Bush’s visit to Ireland in 2004.

Welcoming the appointment of Supt O’Neill, Minister O’Donovan said that the design for a new garda station had now been finalised. “Now it is a case of making sure delivery takes place. That is why local leadership is important. That is why this appointment is important.”

“The biggest issue up to now was because the site was so constrained,” Minister O’Donovan continued. But now the design had been agreed, it was a case of progressing it through the OPW.  The upgrade is included in the Capital Investment Plan 2016-2021.

Supt O’Neill “knows both urban and rural Limerick very very well”, Minister O’Donovan added.

“I think he will do a lot of very positive work. I think he will continue where Tom O’Connor  left off. He knows the geography, the parishes, the needs of the communities.”

Niall Collins TD said Supt O'Neill's appointment was “welcome news” but he is concerned that the serving sergeant in Abbeyfeale is due to be relocated to Newcastle West later this month, leaving the town with no sergeant.

He has written to Chief Supt David Sheahan on the matter. “A sergeant was always based in Abbeyfeale and effectively was the sergeant in charge within the district serving the communities of Athea, Mountcollins, Glin and Templeglantine,” he said. “The people of West Limerick and along the Kerry border could at least expect to retain the services of a sergeant.”

His call was echoed by local councillor Francis Foley who said people were concerned about the development. “We need a sergeant,” he said, pointing out that if it went ahead, Abbeyfeale would have nine gardai but no sergeant.

He also said the opening hours of the Abbeyfeale station need to be reviewed. The station is open only one hour a day.

Supt O’Neill joined the Garda Siochana in 1990, beginning his first  posting in Roxboro. He then became a detective in Henry St before being promoted to sergeant at Mayorstone. Following that he was appointed as detective sergeant in Henry St, then promoted to inspector in Newcastle West. In 2012, he was promoted to detective inspector based in Henry St and in December last year, was appointed as superintendent to Midleton.