Councillor says garda station closure ‘doesn’t add up’
NEWPORT-based independent county councillor Michael Holmes has said he is perplexed and shocked by the decision to close Mulranny Garda Station at a time when the Greenway is generating more than €7 million for the local economy and stated, “It doesn’t add up”.
The Independent representative stated that the decision is ‘completely nonsensical’ as Mulranny is presently attracting thousands of additional visitors, and the garda station was already catering for a large population base. He said local people were “extremely disappointed” and the announcement had “caught everyone on the hop”.
In total four garda stations in Mayo will now close in 2012 as a result of budget cutbacks announced last week. Garda stations in Bellacorick, Mulranny, Tourmakeady and Glenisland will all shut. Meanwhile doubts remain over the long-term viability of garda stations in Lahardane, Ballyvary, Bonniconlon, Ballyglass, Killala and Ballycastle.
Cllr Holmes said that the closure of all four garda stations was a massive blow to their respective areas. There was previous concerns for the future of Glenisland station and Bellacorick, but the decision to close Mulranny Garda Station and Tourmakeady Garda Station - two stations which cover significantly large rural areas has come as a huge shock.
A recent study by Fáilte Ireland revealed that in excess of 23,000 visitors are expected to visit west Mayo annually to use the Greenway. Cllr Holmes said, “With the volume of people coming in to the area and the increase of traffic on the N59, which is running adjacent to the garda station, to pull a service like Mulranny Garda Station doesn’t add up?”
Justice minister Alan Shatter stated last week that the closures were necessary if the government was going to adequately address what he described as “the dreadful financial legacy inherited from the previous government”. Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said that it was felt that resources could be deployed more effectively on the frontline if a number of stations no longer had to be staffed and maintained.
Inspector Joe McKenna said that while the closure of Mulranny Garda Station was regrettable it was not as serious as the force losing local gardaí. “The closures are a hard fact of the recession. We still intend to provide the people with a professional service and Mulranny will be a priority”.
Cllr Holmes however is unconvinced that the closures will save money. He continued: “They’ll still have to maintain the building [in Mulranny] so I cannot see how the relevant savings will be made. The garda who was stationed in Mulranny will now be based in Achill. I can’t get my head around how any savings will be made?
Cllr Holmes added that there was a lot of uproar in the Mulranny area about the decision to close the garda station and he criticised the Government for taking the “soft-option”. “There’s an increase in burglaries all over Ireland. I feel it will be a big blow. The criminal gangs will be delighted. It doesn’t matter how little a garda station is open, the fact that it is there is a garda station in an area is a huge deterrent to criminals.
Commenting on the decision to close Tourmakeady Garda Station local publican Kevin O’Toole said that he envisaged that “lot of repercussions and a fear factor particularly amongst older people” would now emanate from the area.
Speaking to The Mayo News last week Mr O’Toole said it will be a major setback. “The next garda station going west is Clifden which is more than 40 miles away. Partry is a long way from some areas of Tourmakeady. It’s going to leave a huge area under temporary cover.”
Mr O’Toole is mystified why a system which had appeared to be working very well has now been hastily altered. “We had one garda stationed here and in emergencies he went to Castlebar to give extra assistance. It amazes me why that wasn’t a satisfactory situation”
He added, “Now it will be Castlebar gardaí coming out to us in emergency situations which doesn’t make sense. My biggest worry is the distance. Ballinrobe is only 12-miles away from us but because that is in the Claremorris District we are not within their radius. Instead we are 18-miles from Castlebar and are included in that area.
Mr O’Toole also referred to applications for passports and other documents and the upheaval that will be caused for local people. “People in this area will now have to go to Partry to apply for passports and get forms signed. If Partry is closed, as it very often is, people will be forced to go to Castlebar.
“The problem there is that I know gardaí have refused to sign documents for people because they are not known to them. There is no rationale to this decision?”