Thursday, 14 March 1996
Seanad Éireann Debate
Mr. Enright: I thank you, a Chathaoirligh, for affording me the opportunity to raise this matter, the existing unsatisfactory position of Tullamore Garda station. As I am sure the Minister is aware, the original Garda station could accommodate approximately 16 people. At present there are in excess of 50 personnel employed in the area and the numbers will increase with developments over coming years. Attached to the station are a superintendent, an inspector, sergeants, officers, detective gardaí and secretarial assistants. The station needs a major extension, renovations and overhaul. The extension is needed to accommodate all the personnel who use the station as at present it is totally unsuitable. Staff are endeavouring to work in totally overcrowded conditions.
Between 20,000 and 30,000 people live in Tullamore and its environs. Because of this huge number of people around the town, the Garda station is regularly used for inquiries or calls on matters of concern. There is also a certain level of crime, as in any town of its size. The gardaí are at present hampered in discharging their duties by the totally unsatisfactory conditions in the station. They have difficulty holding prisoners as the detention area is not sufficient for a town of its size. In the cell area there is a narrow space through which gardaí must bring prisoners, which presents a risk for the officers.
Sergeant Michael Dalton was interviewed recently on Radio 3, a local radio station. He spoke about conditions in the station, pointed out the problems and was reasoned and fair in  what he said. I concur with his views. The two urgent needs are, first, for major renovations and an extension; and, second, for safety and emergency exits in the event of a problem in the station.
I ask the Minister to have the essential work carried out immediately. While it is being done, I want an assurance that Tullamore's present position on the waiting list will not be affected. The Minister should assure the House that Tullamore will be treated as a priority and endeavour to improve its situation on the priority list.
The old sergeant's house is available and if it was sold the proceeds could be put towards the carrying out of the essential work on the station. I speak on behalf of the personnel who use the station and for the Tullamore Chamber of Commerce, Tullamore Lyons Club and all the people of Tullamore who are anxious to have a proper Garda station.
Minister of State at the Department of Tourism and Trade (Mr. T. O'Sullivan): I apologise to the House for the Minister's unavoidable absence. I thank Senator Enright for raising this issue and affording me the opportunity to explain on behalf of the Minister the up to date position with regard to the work on Tullamore Garda station.
As the Senator will know, there are proposals for a major extension and refurbishment of the station. To this end the former fire station building adjacent to the Garda station has been acquired by the Office of Public Works to provide the necessary room for expansion. I am aware the accommodation at present provided in Tullamore Garda station is less than adequate. The Minister took the opportunity when visiting Tullamore last year to view conditions for herself. As a result of that visit she was convinced of the need for speedy improvement at the station and has afforded it a high priority.
 Tullamore is included in the Garda major building programme. However, there is a number of major projects in that programme which remain to be completed before work in Tullamore can begin. I cannot say at this stage when it will be possible to commence work in Tullamore. However, I assure the Senator that the Minister is determined to tackle the problem as soon as possible and there will be no avoidable delay in upgrading the facilities.
It is important to stress that a great deal of work has been done in recent years in improving standards of accommodation at Garda stations. However, it is a large scale operation. The programme of improvement has a high priority with the Minister and the Government. This year almost £9 million has been provided for the building and maintenance of Garda stations. It must be borne in mind, however, that the Garda Síochána occupies 704 Garda stations and other accommodation, including married quarters, large complexes like Templemore and Garda Headquarters, and a variety of smaller units. Many of the buildings occupied by the Garda are old RIC and DMP stations designed for a different era. Like Tullamore, many need major upgrading or replacement.
As I said, a great deal of work has been carried out in recent years to improve matters. I am sure the Members of the House will be aware of examples of fine new Garda stations built in recent years around the country. Senator Enright will know that major work is being carried out at present at Birr, County Offaly, to improve the Garda station accommodation. This work will be completed in the near future.
The Minister is concerned to ensure that all stations like Tullamore which remain to be improved or replaced are tackled as quickly as possible. I cannot  give the Senator a date when refurbishment work will begin at Tullamore, but I can assure him the work will be put in train as soon as possible, subject to the overall priorities and the availability of finance. I assure the Senator  the points raised by him will be conveyed to the Minister.
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