Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Department of Justice and Equality
325. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which his attention was drawn to the decision by the Garda Commissioner not to proceed with plans to build a new regional Garda headquarters in County Sligo at a site which was purchased by the Office of Public Works as part of a PPP bundle that was to see new Garda stations at Sligo, Macroom and Clonmel, as outlined by his predecessor on 21 October 2015 and on several occasions on the Dáil Éireann record since; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10740/20]
326. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality his views on whether, in view of the fact that Sligo is now a key growth centre in Project Ireland 2040 and it is the capital of the north-west region, the decision not to proceed with the proposed new regional garda station in Sligo should be revisited by the Government and the Garda Commissioner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10742/20]
327. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the detail of the new plans which are now in place for the State to invest in the old Sligo Garda station, as outlined by him to this Deputy in Dáil Éireann on 4 June 2020; his views on whether this will be funding well spent in view of the small footprint, age and condition of the old Garda station in Sligo; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that no matter the level of investment which is allocated to this project, it will still have a limited capacity to serve the population of the area due to the special restrictions of the old site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10743/20]
328. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the reason both Macroom and Clonmel are still set to receive new Garda stations under the previously advertised PPP bundle that contained plans for a new station in Sligo; the reason Sligo was the only station in the bundle to be removed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10744/20]
329. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if the decision not to proceed with plans to build a new Garda station in Sligo have been affected by the damage to the economy and the State's finances as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10745/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 325 to 329, inclusive, together.
At the outset it is important to be clear that the Garda Commissioner is by law responsible for the management and control of An Garda Síochána and for the effective and efficient use of Garda resources. Further, the Office of Public Works (OPW) has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation. Works in relation to Garda accommodation are therefore progressed by the Garda authorities working in close cooperation with the OPW.
The overall purpose of the Garda Building and Refurbishment Programme 2016-2021 is to address deficiencies in the Garda estate and provide fit-for-purpose facilities for Garda members and staff as well as the public interacting with them. The programme is continuing to make progress at a range of locations around the country.
A Public Private Partnership (PPP) project was included in this programme and at the time of launch, it was intended to deliver three new Garda stations- namely a new District Headquarters at Macroom, a new District Headquarters at Clonmel and a new Regional / Divisional Headquarters in Sligo. As the Deputy will recall, it was unfortunately the case that there were significant delays in relation to this intended PPP, due in the first instance to lengthy processes for acquisition of sites at all relevant locations.
At the same time, very significant developments were occurring in relation to policing in Ireland. The report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland was published and is now being taken forward under the 4-year implementation plan A Policing Service for our Future.
In keeping with that report and implementation plan, the Garda Commissioner last year announced a new Operating Model for An Garda Síochána. This new Operating Model reorganises resources around the delivery of frontline policing, placing an increased emphasis on Gardaí being out visibly on patrol, engaging with communities, preventing crime and supporting victims. As part of the reduction of bureaucracy and streamlining of administrative processes, the number of Garda Regions and Divisions is being reduced and additional power will be devolved to local level so as to enable the delivery of better and more localised policing services nationwide.
Clearly, this new model also has implications for Garda accommodation requirements. Following a review of its accommodation requirements, the Commissioner and his management team decided that the PPP should proceed to deliver new stations in Macroom and in Clonmel. However, the Commissioner determined that the provision of a new station at Sligo should not proceed as part of the PPP.
Sligo station is undergoing a very extensive refit and I understand that this is felt to be a more appropriate and much faster way of delivering a modern Garda Station for Sligo, in accordance with its role in the new Garda Operating Model and having regard to the fact that the current location of the station is considered optimum from the operational perspective.
It is however important to note that, while it was decided that delivery of a new station in Sligo under the PPP was no longer justified, the Commissioner decided that the upgrading of the existing station to a high standard will continue.
I can confirm that this decision was not made in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Commissioner's decision was communicated to my Department by letter received on 2 January 2020.
In terms of the nature of the works involved, as requested by the Deputy, I understand that significant remedial works have already taken place in the existing station, including the complete upgrade of the three floors in the building containing the public office and the provision of new locker facilities. I understand that further upgrades are progressing and include the provision of new cells and custody management facilities.
I am advised by the OPW that property maintenance personnel are currently on site in Sligo working on internal upgrade works at the station, to provide a new custody suite including new cells built to current standards, prisoner processing, interview, solicitor and doctor's rooms. I understand that the existing cells were not considered suitable for upgrading and the new cells are located in a different section of the building, requiring adjacent prisoner processing facilities. I understand that these works are currently due to be completed in December 2020. I am further advised that the OPW is currently preparing a tender package to provide facilities for a scene of crimes unit.
In general I understand from the Garda authorities and the OPW that further upgrades will ensure that Garda accommodation needs in Sligo are addressed and that the station is upgraded to meet the future operational requirements of Garda members, staff and the public who use it.