GARDAI are facing one of their most difficult years yet following the news that 100 stations will be shut nationwide.
The announcement was one of a number of measures that Brendan Howlin failed to mention in his speech to the Dail.
Instead, the news was delivered by Justice Minister Alan Shatter who claimed the closures would free up officers "from behind desks".
Two of the largest stations are in the capital -- Kill o'the Grange in Dun Laoghaire and Stepaside in the minister's own constituency of Dublin South.
And 14 stations will close in the Eastern Region which includes Laois, Wicklow, Kildare, Meath and Westmeath.
The closures mean that some communities will be 40km away from their nearest station.
Mr Shatter said 98pc of the stations flagged for closure are part-time -- with the vast majority open for three hours per day and staffed by one officer.
The Justice Minister also detailed plans to amalgamate 28 garda districts into just 14.
Defending the measures, he said: "We must free up gardai so that they are available for frontline operational purposes."
But his justification of the closures was angrily criticised by Fianna Fail today. The party's Justice Spokesman Niall Collins blasted: "At a time when vulnerable communities are worrying about crime and looking to the Government for leadership, all they see is a sustained effort to degrade the gardai's presence in our towns and cities."
Mr Collins accused the government of "jaw dropping cynicism" by "slipping out" of giving details of the closures in the budget speeches.
Meanwhile, the Garda Representative Association president John Parker said the decision was made without proper consultation, adding: "The GRA has always believed that the closure of garda stations can only have a negative impact on communities."