THE decision to shut six garda stations in Limerick next year and to reduce the number of garda districts from five to four has been severely criticised.
Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan announced details of the closures yesterday afternoon - within minutes of the conclusion of Budget 2013.
As had been widely expected the Newcastle West and Askeaton garda districts are to be amalgamated into a larger district with its headquarters being located at Newcastle West garda station.
The Askeaton garda district, which currently encompasses areas such as Askeaton, Rathkeale, Adare, Croom and Ballingarry has not had a full-time superintendent for over 12 months following the retirement of Supt Joe Roe last year.
It is likely that Askeaton garda station will see a major reduction in its opening hours once the change takes effect early next year.
Askeaton-based councillor, Kevin Sheahan, says the decision to amalgamate the Askeaton and Newcastle West garda districts is regrettable.
“I was expecting it but I was hoping it would not happen,” he said adding he doesn’t think it the new structure is workable.
“It won’t be possible to give the same standard of police coverage, it’s not physically possible,” Cllr Sheahan told the Limerick Leader.
Elsewhere, there is widespread anger at the decision to close rural garda stations in Galbally, Kifinane, Castletown Conyers, Kilmeedy and Tournafulla as well as Mary Street garda station in the city.
The closure of the six garda stations in Limerick next year will follow on from the closure of Doon and Shanagolden garda stations earlier this year.
According to the Garda Press Office, a total of three sergeants and 19 gardai will be directly affected by the station closures in Limerick and more are likely to be affected by the downgrading of Askeaton garda station.
Fianna Fail TD, Niall Collins, says the decision to close the six garda stations does not make financial or policing sense.
“It will hugely impact on crime prevention and detection in our rural communities which are experiencing a surge in crime and in particular burglaries,” said the Fianna Fail justice spokesperson.