STRIPPING Askeaton Garda Station of its headquarter status is a retrograde step, local Fianna Fail councillor Kevin Sheahan has claimed.
Speaking at a meeting of the County Limerick Joint Policing Committee he said: “Minister Shatter can dress it up whatever way he likes but the bottom line is that by stripping Askeaton Garda Station of its headquarter status, the Minister is cutting our local garda resources. This will certainly have an impact on the local community.”
And he called on Justice Minister Alan Shatter to put an immediate stop to such a retrograde step and to halt plans to shut down more small Garda stations in the county.
“Fine Gael and Labour must make a commitment to the people of Co Limerick that they will not shut down any more Garda stations in Co Limerick,” Cllr Sheahan said.
Fianna Fail TD and party spokesman on Justice Niall Collins backed Cllr Sheahan’s call and seconded the motion.
“While I fully understand the budget constraints at this time, it makes absolutely no financial sense to shut down small stations that provide real protection to our communities. It costs just €2,000 a year to run a small garda station, and the benefits of having a visible garda presence in a community far outweigh this minimal cost,” he said.
“Many people living in the more isolated areas in Co Limerick are feeling increasingly vulnerable in their homes due to the increase in burglaries, muggings and theft at a time when local Garda resources are being cut. The threat of more Garda stations in Co Limerick being closed or downgraded is adding to this sense of fear,” Mr Collins added.
Meanwhile, former Defence Minister Willie O’Dea has also added his voice to the demand to protect Garda stations.
“Now is not the time for the Justice Minister Alan Shatter to close and downgrade Garda stations,” he said pointing to the increase of almost 10% in burglaries in the Southern Region which includes Limerick, in the year to the end of June.
“There were 3,469 burglaries in this region to the end of June. That’s 3,469 ordinary families and individuals in this area who had their homes or business targeted by criminals,” Mr O’Dea said.
“These figures again highlight the absurdity of Minister Shatter’s policy of closing and downgrading garda stations across the country. The Minister has already shut down 39 garda stations this year, including ones in Shanagolden and Doon. Now with the rate of burglaries up significantly, he is in the process of planning a second round of cuts to Garda stations in this region. “
People in isolated rural communities across the county feel vulnerable. “They need the safety and reassurance of a visible Garda presence in their area,” Mr O’Dea argued.