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Dublin: 9°C Sunday 7 March 2021

Dublin's most senior garda says reopening Stepaside station not his top priority

Pat Leahy said that in terms of personnel allocation, there are other areas of Dublin that he would wish to prioritise.

Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy told the PAC that the criteria set by the Department of Justice may have been problematic.
Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy told the PAC that the criteria set by the Department of Justice may have been problematic.

THE ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER for the Dublin metropolitan region has said that the reopening of Stepaside garda station is not his top priority.

Garda management today confirmed to the Public Accounts Committee that the six closed stations recommended for reopening are: Ballinspittle, Bawnboy, Donard, Leighlinbridge, Rush and Stepaside.

An interim report had already recommended Stepaside be reopened and there have been suggestions that this was a political decision rather than a policing one.

Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy told committee members that although he himself recommended the reopening of Stepaside, it is not his “number one priority” in terms of the allocation of personnel for the Dublin region.

Criteria set by the Department of Justice required garda management to choose six stations, one of which was to be in Dublin. There had to be an urban-rural mix and the stations had to be in State ownership.

Garda managers considered these criteria as well as other factors like crime trends and population.

Based on all of this, Leahy said the only two stations in his region to meet the criteria were Stepaside and Rush. He said that Stepaside met the criteria “better than any other” station.

However, in terms of allocating personnel, the assistant commissioner said Stepaside would not be top of his list.

“I would not send them there before sending them to Ballyfermot and Ronanstown and the north inner city.”

Leahy told the committee he had recommended the station open between 7am and 9pm.

When asked by Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane whether there was a problem with the criteria set for choosing the stations, Leahy replied: “That very well may be the case.”

Before it closed, there were 34 personnel at Stepaside. If reopened, Leahy said he was informed that two sergeants and 15 gardaí would be required as well as some support staff.

“This is not to say people in Stepaside are not entitled to get proper policing and the chief (superintendent) will get resources as they come on stream,” he told the committee.

Acting Commissioner Dónall O Cualáin told the committee that he could not provide a timeline for the reopening of the station, but it is expected it will be well into 2018.

He said here was now a process to go through, which would involve assessing the work needed to bring the stations up to standard.

Labour’s Alan Kelly was critical of the decision not to consult with the organisation’s Director of Human Resources John Barrett about personnel before recommendations were made.

O Cualáin said personnel requirements and opening hours would be considered after initial assessments of these buildings were done.

The Commissioner said the force is now recruiting more people than it is losing to retirement each year and many new gardaí will come on stream in the next 12 months.

Chair of the committee Sean Flemming pointed out that political promises “may not gel” with the best use of taxpayer’s funds.

He said the committee would write to the Justice Committee on the issue to recommend this topic be a priority for discussion in relation to the garda budget for 2018.

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