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Shane Ross: Decision to reopen Stepaside Garda Station was not 'stroke politics'

The Minister for Transport said the reopening of the station was following through on what he promised to constituents.

Image: RTÉ

Updated 2.18 pm 

MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT Shane Ross has defended the government decision to reopen Stepaside Garda Station, saying it wasn’t “stroke politics” even though the station is in his own constituency.

Stepaside was one of 139 stations closed as part of government cuts. Ross was a vocal critic of the measure while in opposition, and ran his election campaign on the basis that he would reopen Stepaside.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Prime Time last night, the Dublin Rathdown TD said that he was always opposed to the closure of garda stations.

Ross said: “Let me take you back. I campaigned against the closure of Stepaside Garda Station. I campaigned for that for four years. During the general election, I made it my policy that garda stations should not have closed.

The worst case of it in the country was on my doorstep.

He said that he and other Independent Alliance members had followed through on a campaign pledge when they made it to the Cabinet table.

Ross said: “When we got into government, as part of the Programme for Government, I did what I promised to do which was to reverse government policy on the closure of garda stations.

You’re asking the question there: was it stroke politics? First of all, the answer to that is absolutely no.

It was pointed out to Ross by Miriam O’Callaghan that the decision to reopen Stepaside was made at the Cabinet which he is part of, the one garda station that is reopening is in his constituency and it’s what he campaigned on.

Ross replied: “I campaigned for the reopening of all the garda stations that shouldn’t have been closed. There should be a comprehensive review of that policy.”

The Minister was also asked about the criteria used for Stepaside to be reopened.

He replied: “The criteria was criminal activity in the area, rise in population and the feeling of locals. ”

He said other stations in Rush and Dalkey had also been up for consideration, and said that he had no input on what garda stations were chosen to be reopened.

On the same programme, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald accused the government of “cherry-picking” Stepaside for reopening.

Yesterday, the Acting Commissioner of An Garda Síochána, Dónall Ó Cualáin apologised to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for the delay in the publishing of an interim report into the re-opening of Garda stations around Ireland.

As regards why Stepaside was deemed necessary for reopening, Ó Cualáin said that he “does not have the authority to tell TDs why Stepaside, in particular, was chosen for reopening”.

Sinn Féin justice spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has called on Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan to publish the interim report “as a matter of urgency”.

He said: “The metric around the selection of garda stations that require reopening needs to be examined, and we need to see the specifics, that should outline what bearing politics had on this decision.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was asked about the issue today and said that he cannot recall seeing the interim report that led to the reopening of the stations.

“Anyone who reads programme government will see there’s a commitment to open six garda stations on a pilot basis and those have been identified and they’re going to be opened. Stepaside has not yet opened but it will be,” Varadkar said,

“I’ve no objection to it (the report) being published, I’ve not actually seen it myself, or I don’t recall seeing it If if I did, so I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t publish it, but they may have a good reason not to do so.”

- Wth reporting by Rónán Duffy

Read: Acting Garda Commissioner says he has ‘no authority’ to release report into reopening of Stepaside Garda Station

Read: FactCheck: Has crime actually increased since all those garda stations were closed?

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Sean Murray

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