Tuesday, 12 February 2019
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House to debate this important issue.I am looking for an update on the reopening of Rush Garda station. Rush station was one of the six Garda stations that were announced in November 2017 to be reopened as part of a pilot project. That was November 2017 and now we are in February 2019 and I am looking for an update. The people of Rush were delighted when it was announced they would get their Garda station back. They severely felt the loss of the Garda station and the diminishing of the Garda numbers in north County Dublin.
In case the Minister of State does not know, Rush is a small coastal town in north County Dublin with a population of some 10,000. It has grown rapidly in recent years and that growth is set to continue. Like all of north County Dublin, the population is exploding there, but we have seen a 20% decline in Garda numbers in the area. This particular Garda station was closed back in 2012. The people in Rush are very anxious about their personal security and the security within the town. We were very happy when this reopening was announced. I would like an update on what stage it is at. The last time I raised this issue was in May 2018 and at that point there was a discussion between the OPW and An Garda Síochána with regard to an assessment of needs. I was informed that this assessment was nearing an end. I would appreciate if the Minister of State could give us an update and, as far as possible, a timeline for when we could see Rush Garda station open.
I acknowledge the serious interest taken by the Senator in this matter. I know that she is speaking about a very nice part of north County Dublin. I compliment the Senator on her work for the people there. The Minister, Deputy Flanagan, sends his regrets as he cannot be here today due to other commitments.
I am sure you will.
The Senator will be aware that A Programme for a Partnership Government commits to a pilot scheme to reopen six Garda stations, urban and rural, to determine the possible positive impacts that such openings would have on criminal activity, with special emphasis on burglaries, thefts and public order. The Garda Commissioner's final report, which is available on my Department's website, recommends that Rush Garda station be reopened along with the following stations: Ballinspittle, County Cork; Bawnboy, County Cavan; Leighlinbridge, County Carlow; Donard, County Wicklow; and Stepaside, County Dublin.
It is important to recognise that the programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation is progressed by the Garda authorities working in close co-operation with the Office of Public Works. The OPW has the responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation. The Minister for Justice and Equality has no direct role in these matters, as the Senator will appreciate. The Minister has been informed, however, that at the outset of the pilot reopening process the Garda authorities provided a brief of requirements to the OPW on the reopening of each of these six Garda stations and requested that the OPW carry out technical surveys to determine the works necessary to enable the stations to reopen.
The Senator is aware that following the consideration of the OPW technical surveys of each of the six stations, the Commissioner identified the organisation's preferred way forward bearing in mind operational needs, costs, timeframe for delivery and other factors. Engagement between the OPW and An Garda Síochána has continued, providing further necessary detail to allow the pilot programme of reopenings to proceed to the next stage of implementation.
As the works required at each station are different it can be expected that the six stations will be reopened at different times. The Department has been informed that the necessary works were completed at Donard station in December 2018 and the station has now been handed over to An Garda Síochána by the OPW.
Finalisation of design planning, where required, and the procurement for works at each of the five remaining stations included in the pilot programme are at different stages but are being processed by the OPW in conjunction with An Garda Síochána in line with all applicable processes and procedures. In advance of today's debate the Minister requested an update from the OPW and the Garda authorities specifically on progress on Rush Garda station. From the OPW we understand that a revised brief of requirements regarding Rush station was received from An Garda Síochána in August 2018. We are informed that the OPW prepared and submitted a proposed plan to the Garda authorities for review and that a final design plan was agreed and signed off in December 2018. We are informed that the OPW is currently preparing tender documents to procure the required works at Rush station via the OPW measured term maintenance contract. Some interim minor maintenance works such as clearing pathways and so on will be carried out by the OPW regional office in advance of those works. The OPW has said it expects works to be complete and the Rush station to be handed over to An Garda Síochána by this year, summer 2019. After the hand over of the building the exact date of reopening of the station will be an operational matter for An Garda Síochána.I assure the Senator that implementation of a pilot Garda station reopening project and reopening of all relevant stations will be pursued as a priority. The Office of Public Works expects that work will be completed in all remaining stations this year. I hope that is useful to the Senator.
I thank the Minister of State for his comprehensive answer. It is great that the project is progressing at this rate. I am pleased the Minister of State has given a final date of summer 2019. I have tried to pin down the Minister on several occasions. Obviously, things were progressing. It is good the Department is moving towards the final point in this and I note the tender documents are being prepared. It would be assumed that relatively minor works remain to be done on the Garda station if the Minister of State envisages the handover taking place this summer. I hope that An Garda Síochána can staff the station at that stage. I will make a request to the Minister to provide extra Garda resources for north County Dublin, including extra Garda cars and the other resources that the Garda needs. There is no point having the Garda station reopened if there are not enough resources in place. I thank the Minister of State for the update. I appreciate it.
I compliment the Senator on her interest in pursuing this important matter and I thank her for raising. Again, I assure her of the Government's commitment to the pilot Garda station reopening scheme, which is intended to determine possible positive impacts that such openings would have on criminal activity. That is the reason it is going ahead.
As I have said, An Garda Síochána and the OPW are working closely together to allow for the reopening of the stations concerned, including the station in Rush. I have heard the Senator's views and I reassure her that the OPW and Garda authorities are working closely together to allow for the reopening of each of the six stations. The station in Donard has been completed and has been handed over and the others will hopefully be completed this year as well.
It is not possible for me to say at this stage when exactly Rush Garda station will reopen because that is a matter for the Garda Commissioner. I am informed by the OPW that the necessary remedial works will be completed by the summer of this year. Staffing and other resources are matters for the Commissioner and the Minister has no direct role in directing that, as such. The exact opening date is an operational matter for An Garda Síochána. I thank the Senator for her interest and for raising this matter.