'Stepaside work will start before election' - Ross
Building works to allow for the reopening of Stepaside garda station will have commenced before the next general election, Shane Ross has insisted.
The Transport Minister's crusade to get the south Dublin station back into operation was central to his election campaign in 2016.
He sought guarantees around the station's future as part of his deal to enter government with Fine Gael and was ultimately rewarded by a report which said Stepaside and five other stations should be reopened as part of a pilot scheme.
However, a number of Mr Ross's ministerial colleagues have told the Herald that they don't expect to see gardai based there any time soon.
The Office of Public Works which is in charge of the building remains unable to provide a timeline for when any of the six stations will undergo remedial building works.
Last Tuesday this newspaper asked the OPW for an update on their assessment of buildings in Ballinspittle, Co Cork, Bawnboy, Co Cavan, Rush, Co Dublin, Donard Co Wicklow, Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow and Stepaside.
On Friday the office replied saying that a "brief of requirements for each station" was received by the end of February.
A full technical assessments of each site was completed in April - but a "deliberative process between An Garda Siochana and OPW is continuing".
"Until a detailed and definitive design is agreed in each case, timelines for the re-openings cannot be provided at this stage," a statement said.
However, Mr Ross last night said he was "confident" work will begin on Stepaside before the next general election.
"There have been delays, understandably because of technical differences between gardai and the OPW but there is no doubt it will open," he said.
Mr Ross told the Herald he is "impatient" but trusts his Fine Gael counterparts on the issue.
Yesterday Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan expressed "surprise" at a suggestion from Mr Ross that the station would reopen soon.
"Having visited the former station earlier in the week I was shocked at the dilapidated state of the interior. Following what I saw I am surprised at suggestions the opening is imminent," he said.
It is understood refurbishment work on the station could cost as much as €1m.
Gardai are known to have serious doubts about the merits of putting extra resources into the area.
Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy, who is widely tipped to be the next commissioner, has previously said Stepaside "wouldn't have been my number one priority. I have other pressing demands across the region".
Mr Flanagan's comments were in reaction to Mr Ross contacting constituents to say he expected to be given an opening date for the station in the "coming weeks".
"Over the last 12 months progress on delivering on this commitment has been much slower than we all would have liked," Mr Ross wrote.