Garda divisions: Minister claims changes are ‘win-win’ for Kilkenny, but fears grow over rural crime
By COLIN BARTLEY
THE announcement that Kilkenny will be the headquarters of the newly formed Eastern Garda region has been described as a ‘win-win’ by a local Minister, despite the county losing the divisional headquarters to Waterford.
Another Kilkenny TD has called the loss of the divisional HQ “disappointing” but will accept the decision if it means more effective and visible policing in the county.
Groups representing garda members have not been so welcoming of the plans and says the reduction in divisions is putting rural communities in a precarious position.
Kilkenny’s Junior Minister, John Paul Phelan described the Garda Commissioner’s announcement “a win-win for effective and efficient policing” in Kilkenny and the South East region and said the new Garda operating model will see more gardai on the ground in Kilkenny.
“The Garda Commissioner’s announcement that the divisional headquarters for the Waterford, Kilkenny and Carlow area will be in Waterford and that Kilkenny is getting an eastern regional headquarters, is very welcome news. The Regional Chief Superintendent will be based in Kilkenny. All these moves are very much a win-win for effective and efficient policing in this region.
“There had been speculation and scaremongering by some in recent weeks about the location of the divisional HQ in particular. But the Commissioner has made clear his plans. Over time, these changes will mean we have more Sergeants and Inspectors on the ground in communities; less bureaucracy and duplication at senior Garda level as well as more decision-making powers at local level.”
“While there are major changes in the structures of the organisation, what is more important to the public is the Garda Commissioner’s commitment that the new model will provide more front-line gardaí, increased Garda visibility, and a wider range of policing services in their local area.”
Minister Phelan, as exclusively revealed in KilkennyNow.ie earlier this month, suggested the new divisional HQ could be built on a greenfield site on the Kilkenny side of Waterford City saying: “In order to get that geographic access (to Carlow and Kilkenny), you need something near that Waterford by-pass in county Kilkenny.”
Kilkenny’s Fianna Fail TD, Bobby Aylward expressed his disappointment the divisional headquarters was moving from Kilkenny but made the point that the location of the building doesn’t matter, it’s the service the gardai provide to the community, which is most important.
He told KilkennyNow.ie: “I’m disappointed of course the divisional headquarters is moving from Kilkenny to Waterford. At the same time, I’m happy that we got the regional headquarters based in Kilkenny and we get the regional Chief Superintendent here.
“Naturally we would have liked to have the divisional HQ in Kilkenny, but you can’t have everything. We got the regional HQ and Waterford got the divisional – I suppose that’s fair.
“At the end of the day its all about the rollout of policing for the three counties involved. The location of the headquarters really doesn’t make a difference if we get the policing that we want, both frontline and community. All we want to see is more results like we did with Operation Thor yesterday, for which the gardai should be commended.”
Two bodies representing 90% of the Garda rank and file have expressed their concerns at Commissioner Drew Harris’s plans.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA) this afternoon said the plans to remove the status of divisional headquarter from eight stations raise serious concerns for policing in rural Ireland.
While the Association of the Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) doesn’t believe that the Commissioner can provide the force with the 1,800 extra gardaí promised over the next 18 months.