THE nature of policing in rural Limerick could be set to change irrevocably, after the head of the Limerick garda division admitted that some garda stations in the county could be facing closure.
Fears have been expressed that many stations in rural Limerick could be at risk as part of a nationwide review of garda operations, as the force prepares for further cuts to its funding in next year’s Budget.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has asked chief superintendents around the country to draw up lists of stations in their division that could be closed for cost-cutting purposes.
The head of the Limerick garda division, Chief Supt David Sheehan, has admitted that he will be taking “a cold look” at every station in the county in order to identify potential savings.
Reports that as many as 200 stations may be closed nationwide has prompted local fears that several stations in county Limerick could be at risk.
Cllr Liam Galvin, the chairman of the county’s joint policing committee, said that while funding cuts are inevitable, front-line policing in Limerick’s towns and villages is vital.
“We all know that the country’s broke. But the health and welfare of the people of rural Limerick, young and old, has to be looked after.
“People are realistic. Cutbacks need to be made. But law and order should be number one. The gardai have been doing a great job, and that needs to be continued.”
Chief Supt Sheehan said that a strategic review group has been set up in Limerick to identify garda stations which could possibly be closed. This group will submit a preliminary report to Garda Headquarters in the next week.
“There have been some areas identified alright”, he said. “But to be quite honest, I’m taking a cold look at every station within the division to see what stations can and can’t [be closed].
“What we’ve been asked to do is identify any cost savings associated with any proposals we do put forward. I have to say, this is at a very early stage and no decision will be made in the immediate future.”
While no criteria for closing stations has been outlined, it is believed that those stations manned by only one garda could be most vulnerable.