herald

Sunday 4 December 2016

Shatter is jeered amid calls for garda station to be re-opened

Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter
Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter

Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter was met by a chorus of jeering when he spoke at a public protest about the closure of a south Dublin garda station.

Mr Shatter, who was minister when Stepaside garda station - which is in his constituency - was closed in April 2013, told the Herald the decision was an operational one made by then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

Around 500 people from the Stepaside area, which has a population of 22,000, turned out for yesterday's public meeting.

The closure of the south Dublin garda station along with 138 others across the country, which was signed off by Mr Shatter, is saving the State €556,000 a year, according to figures released by current Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald last year.

Angry

Yesterday, angry locals described how they are living in fear as the result of an increase in the number of burglaries in the area.

The latest CSO figures show a 34pc increase in burglaries across the Dublin Eastern division, which takes in Stepaside.

"It was an operational decision of the Garda Commissioner to close 139 stations," said Mr Shatter.

"It wasn't for me as minister to engage in special pleading on behalf of constituents in circumstances where the operational advice was we would be better off with gardai doing regular policing work than sitting at a desk in Stepaside."

Communications Minister Alex White said he would support a new garda station for the general area.

Mr Shatter also hit out at promises made by other speakers at yesterday's event, including Independent TD Shane Ross and Fianna Fail senator Mary White, that the decision to close Stepaside station can be reversed, describing it as "seriously misleading".

"I think it is unfortunate that some of the speakers implied that should they be re-elected they can have the station reopened because the legal position is that they can't," he said.

However, Mr Ross said: "It was a political decision made by a minister and it is a political decision which can be reversed by a minister."

Mr Shatter said initiatives such as Operation Thor, set up to target burglary gangs, are a more efficient use of garda resources.

"The suggestion that had we had a garda station open this burglary problem would not have arisen, is unfortunately mistaken," he said. "Burglars are delighted that gardai are sitting in garda stations."

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