Thursday, 23 April 2015
The matter of Bailieborough Garda station has been raised in this and the other House on several occasions, as well as in the council chambers in County Cavan. A new Garda station was needed in Bailieborough for quite some time because the current building on Barrack Street is in disrepair and is not suitable for the workload of the Garda district headquarters. Gardaí require modern and appropriation accommodation and citizens of the area need confidence in the premises from which law and order is upheld. As the district headquarters, the station should have a modern, state of the art facility to accommodate gardaí and others who work there, as well as members of the public who have reason to visit it. The existing station has long been unsuitable for policing purposes, and a recent report referred to it in terms including "Third World", "hazardous" and "health risk". I am concerned that conditions appear to breach security requirements at the station.
Bailieborough is only one of two district headquarters in County Cavan. The district headquarters in Cavan town is experiencing pressure due to the closure of the Ballyconnell station. It is important that the OPW bears is cognisant of the necessity to provide new accommodation at the earliest opportunity. I understand it is currently evaluating a number of proposals for the new station in Bailieborough, having advertised for potential sites or buildings after being unable to identify suitable State owned sites. The application deadline was 26 February and the OPW has since reported that it received a significant number of proposals involving a variety of solutions. However, a date for conclusion of the evaluation process has not yet been set, although the OPW has indicated that it intends to advance the process as a priority. It is imperative that the public and those who work in the station are given some idea of when a decision will be made. I appreciate that significant work had to be done in assessing the applications and identifying the correct premises but more clarity should brought to the decision-making process.There will still be a range of other factors to consider. All stakeholders in the community and county are anxious to see this much-needed facility progressed for the staff who have to work in the station, as well as for the general public who use it. It should be provided as a matter of urgency. I compliment other Senators and Deputies who have raised this issue in recent weeks. I add my voice to those seeking clarity as to when the consultation and evaluation process will be concluded. Will the Minister of State provide a timeline because there is nothing worse than being left in the dark?
The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, wishes to thank the Senator for raising this matter and regrets that she is unable to be present as she is attending a passing-out parade at the Garda College in Templemore today. It is the first time in a while that a large number of new gardaí will enter the force.
The programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation is based on requirements established by An Garda Síochána. The programme is advanced in close co-operation with the Office of Public Works, OPW, which has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation. Provision for expenditure on capital projects, including the provision of Garda accommodation, is provided for in the Vote of the OPW. In that context, the Minister has been informed by the OPW that the acquisition of a site for development of a new district headquarters in Bailieborough has been identified by An Garda Síochána as a priority for 2015. She has also been informed that a review of State-owned sites in the area was conducted to identify any suitable site for the development of a new Garda station in Bailieborough. However, no suitable site was identified. The OPW has further advised her that a notice was recently published in local and national media seeking offers of suitable sites or properties for this development. She has been advised that a significant number of responses were received involving a variety of proposed solutions. All of these responses are being examined and will be fully evaluated by the OPW in consultation with the Garda authorities. It is not possible at this stage to indicate when that process will be complete. However, the Minister has been advised by the Garda authorities that the provision of a new Garda district headquarters in Bailieborough will continue to be pursued in the context of An Garda Síochána’s identified accommodation priorities, the successful acquisition of a suitable site or property and in the light of available resources in the Vote of the OPW.
With regard to the existing station at Bailieborough, the Garda authorities have advised that, while a long-term solution to the accommodation needs at Bailieborough is being progressed, Garda management is actively engaged with the OPW with a view to improving in the more immediate term the working conditions at the station. In that context, any proposal for refurbishment works at the existing station will be progressed in the context of An Garda Síochána's identified accommodation priorities and the availability of funding in the Vote of the OPW.
I thank the Minister of State for taking this matter on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality. It is somewhat ironic that she is in Templemore when we are discussing working conditions for gardaí, particularly those now coming out of the college.
I am concerned that we cannot indicate when the process will be completed and that no site will be identified. This would mean that there would be a sticking plaster solution, with minor works being carried out in the existing station, meaning gardaí and other staff will be kept there for longer than is necessary. Will the Minister of State relate to the Minister for Justice and Equality the need to offer the public some indication as to when the process will be completed? As I said, it is only one part of a very long process which will involve acquiring a site and building works.
I will convey the Senator’s concerns to the Minister. There is a procedure in place for acquiring a site and to put timelines on it is not always possible. However, if a timeline does emerge, I will pass it on to the Senator.