November 22: O’Donovan makes case for NCW garda station upgrade

The need for an extension to Newcastle West Garda station was raised in the Dáil by Limerick Fine Gael Deputy Patrick O’Donovan.

The need for an extension to Newcastle West Garda station was raised in the Dáil by Limerick Fine Gael Deputy Patrick O’Donovan.

Constructed in the 1970s it has never been extended, except by way of a prefab gifted to the town following the visit of former US President, George W. Bush, to Dromoland Castle, he said.

Deputy O’Donovan said there are 66 gardaí, 11 sergeants, one inspector, one superintendent and ten civilians based at the station.

“As a result of a lack of investment in this station for more than 30 years the building is no longer fit for purpose, with prisoners often congregating in the same area as civilians and civilian staff, thus making the work of the gardaí in that station very difficult,” he said.

“Lest any of my friends in the fourth estate would say I have a vested interest in this, I should declare that I live next-door to Newcastle West Garda station and that when a young child I was responsible for breaking a window in that station. I suppose that constitutes a vested interest.”

“We need to examine new ways of approaching this issue,” he said.

“I am aware that the OPW is responsible for the maintenance of Garda stations and for other projects up to a certain level. After that, such matters are for appraisal by the Garda housing unit.”

Deputy O’Donovan said the fact the OPW owns and manages Garda stations and that the Department of Justice and Equality in the context of its role with the Garda authorities also has some responsibility in this area makes unclear the procedures that need to be followed to get stations off the ground in the first instance.

“Is it adequate that there would be only one shower and one toilet for the number of personnel I cited earlier?” he asked.

In response, the Minister for Justice & Equality Frances Fitzgerald said the programme of refurbishment and replacement of Garda accommodation is determined on the basis of accommodation priorities, which are established by An Garda Síochána.

“I am advised that proposals for refurbishment works at Garda stations throughout the State, including Newcastle West Garda station, are examined on an ongoing basis,” she said.

“The Deputy made a very persuasive case in regard to Newcastle West. I will forward the details of what he said to the OPW and An Garda Síochána and will determine precisely where Newcastle West is on the list of priorities in regard to the refurbishment of accommodation. On the next occasion I am in Limerick, I will visit Newcastle West to see the station, as the Deputy described it.”

Budget widened gap between rich and poor – Willie O’Dea

Outside organisations who have no particular political axe to grind have said the recent Budget alone has widened the gap between rich and poor by a minimum of €500 per annum, FF’s spokesman on Social Welfare Willie O’Dea told the Dáil.

He said the people who were hit hardest in this recession are the poorest and most vulnerable.

“One would have thought that when the day arrived when the Government had something to give back, those people would be at the start of the queue, but no,” he said.

“If one closely examines the provisions of the Budget and the Social Welfare announcements, they remain where they were before - at the end of the queue.”

He said the cumulative effect of the hits those people have suffered over several years is devastating. They represent a major factor in our considerable levels of poverty but these cuts do not tell the whole story. They must be seen in the context of cuts to public services, which have also weighed hardest on those least able to afford them.

“Government spokespersons have disputed the fact that the Budget is regressive,” he said.

“However, as a result of this Budget, a single unemployed person gains €46.80 per year. A couple with two earners on €125,000 per year have gained €1,226, which is nearly 30 times more. The Budget gives about 90 cent per week to an unemployed single person, and €14.30 per week to a single person earning €75,000. It certainly sounds regressive to me.”

Deputy O’Dea said the Social Welfare Bill is remarkable for what it does not contain.

“The Government’s main innovative proposal is the so-called family dividend, from which the Minister has generated several public relations outings, announcing that it would be part of the Budget,” he said.

“Two days ago, however, when we got copies of the Bill we found that the proposal had not been thought out at all. It was not ready for inclusion in the Bill but will be introduced in some other Bill next year to take effect when the legislation is enacted. That does not show a particular sense of urgency on the Government’s part.”