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20% of Garda stations can't connect to either the internet or Pulse

At present, members in the unconnected stations must travel to their district station to access Pulse, the Garda computer system.

For article WM Source: William Murphy

THERE ARE CURRENTLY 111 Garda stations without a connection to the internet and authorities expect this total to reduce by almost one third in the near future.

That’s according to Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan who has confirmed that Internet connectivity for 34 of the 111 stations is now nearing completion under a Garda Modernisation and Renewal Programme.

In a written Dáil reply to Fianna Fáil Justice spokesman, Jim O’Callaghan, Minister Flanagan said that there are currently 564 operational Garda stations in the State.

He said that as a result of the 111 stations having no access to the Internet, they are currently not connected to the Garda network so as to allow access to Garda ICT services including Pulse.

He said: “However, any member attached to a currently unconnected station can access Pulse at their local district station. Members in non-networked locations can also contact the Garda Information Services Centre (GISC) or an associated networked station if required.”

Minister Flanagan said that along with the provision of internet connection to 34 stations nearing completion, the gardaí are also at the early stages of planning for the connection of an additional 12 stations.

He said: “This work is due to be completed before the end of 2018.”

The minister also stated that the gardaí are engaged “in planning connectivity solutions for the remaining 65 stations, taking into account factors such as local access to broadband services and the potential for mobile connectivity”.

Minister Flanagan states that the Garda Modernisation and Renewal Programme sets out a series of initiatives which will enable An Garda Síochána to deploy the latest cutting-edge technologies in the fight against crime.

He said: “In support of this plan, some €342 million, including €217 million under the Capital Plan, is being invested in Garda ICT infrastructure between 2016 and 2021.”

Garda Representative Association (GRA) spokesperson John O’Keeffe said the fact that more than one fifth of garda stations still have no access to the internet is “simply breathtaking”.

“The public deserves much more than this. Report after report over the last number of years has highlighted pre-historic communication systems in the Force as being central to its current inability to communicate with the public, itself, or indeed its own software systems.”

He said the reality now is a “perfect story of catastrophic IT gaps against a backdrop of reducing resources”.

Separately, the Minister for Public Expenditure, Paschal Donohoe, confirmed to Deputy O’Callaghan that thus far this year it has cost the tax-payer €193,792 to maintain and provide security to vacant Garda Stations.

In a breakdown of the costs involved, Minister Flanagan confirmed that €54,024 has been spent on maintenance, €113,129 on security and €26,638 on ‘mechanical and electrical’ expenses on vacant Garda stations in the year to 10 July this year.

The €193,792 spend this year on vacant stations follows a spend of €217,766 in 2017

According to Minister Donohoe the costs “include any maintenance or other actions considered by the Office of Public Works (OPW) as being necessary to protect the structure and value of the property asset and/or for health and safety reasons”.

- With reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

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