Anger as 40pc of garda stations have no internet
THE Government has been slammed for the "absurd" situation in which hundreds of garda stations have no internet access.
Some 40pc of the country's 703 stations have no access to the web or email.
It means that 421 of the buildings are "networked locations", while the remaining 282 are not online.
The figures are contained in a reply to a parliamentary question to Fianna Fail justice spokesman Dara Calleary.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter said, even though not all stations are networked, they can all use secure voice communications to carry out operational requirements.
Mr Shatter insisted every district and divisional headquarters is connected.
The Department of Justice pointed out the Garda Commissioner -- and not the minister -- is responsible for the provision of information technology facilities.
But Mr Calleary branded it "absurd" that so many gardai are without such a basic operational necessity.
While there has been significant investment in technology at divisional and national level, community stations have been left behind, according to the Fianna Fail man.
The department said it is "extraordinary" Mr Calleary does not acknowledge that operational decisions are made by the Garda Commissioner.
However, Mr Calleary asked: "How is it possible that in this day and age, four out of 10 garda stations in this country are not 'networked' and do not have email access?"
He added: "Speed and efficiency of communication within the force is crucial to successful policing.
"It is a fundamental requirement that information can be quickly transferred between a local station and divisional headquarters, and between senior members of the force and the rank and file."
Mr Calleary called on Mr Shatter to outline plans to roll out a "basic information technology package" to every garda station in the country.
"This does not have to be a costly exercise -- it's about being clever about how resources are managed to achieve maximum benefit to the public," he added.
Despite the poor figures, the situation has improved on two years ago.
Only 347 stations were classed as networked locations in February 2010, meaning just over 50pc were not online.
Charlie Flanagan, the then Fine Gael justice spokesman, had commented: "Every modern method of communication should be available to the gardai. You can't expect them to fight crime with 1960s methods."
Labour's Tommy Broughan had added: "It's amazing that for the last decade, when the public service and rest of us went online, the Garda Siochana was limping way behind us."