THE HEAD of the Limerick garda division has warned that stations in the city and county may close in the coming months, along with further cutbacks within the force.
Chief Superintendent David Sheahan, Henry Street garda station, outlined to a joint policing committee meeting in the city this week that the division has already suffered a loss of resources, amounting to nearly 7%. Chief Supt said this was due to the embargo on replacing staff who have retired.
Speculation has mounted in recent months that at least one garda station in both the city and county could close in 2013.
“We expect to lose more guards moving forward and we’re also expecting to lose more garda stations,” Chief Supt told councillors.
When pressed by Sinn Fein councillor Maurice Quinlivan on which stations could close, specifically the possibility of Mary Street station in the city, he said: “Mary St is up for grabs, the same as all the stations in the city and county.”
Chief Supt confirmed he has made his views and recommendations known to the Garda Commissioner, who is expected to visit Limerick this coming week to further discuss cost-cutting measures.
“No decision has been made either way. But if you’re worried about Mary Street I’d say you’d have reason to worry,” he said.
The Chief Supt said while “we’re never going to get a crime-free society” they are examining the best use of their resources, and believe the reduction in crime in Limerick has been “down to community gardai.”
Earlier this year he said any decision to close more rural garda stations in County Limerick will not be solely based the number of crimes reported at individual garda stations.
Shanagolden and Doon garda stations were closed this March following a review by the garda commissioner, as well as stations in Moyvane and Ballylongford in north Kerry.
Figures compiled at NUI Maynooth show that Oola garda station was the quietest garda station in Limerick last year - receiving just 14 reports of crimes.
There were 16 crimes reported at Galbally garda station and 22 at Kilmeady garda station.
In contrast Henry Street station in the city received more than 4,700 reports of crimes.
It is expected that almost 100 garda stations around the country will close at some point next year, in addition to the 39 stations which closed earlier this year.
The Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan is involved in an assessment of the services provided by each of the remaining 664 stations, with his findings to be presented to Justice Minister Alan Shatter. The announcement of which stations will close is expected to be made in the coming months.
At the joint policing committee, the Chief Supt outlined that the number of offences for serious crimes are down, with the exception of robberies from a person,thefts from a shop, harassment cases and drunkness offences.