I am joined by my colleague from Sligo-Leitrim, Deputy Eamon Scanlon. Deputy Tony McLoughlin is also present, and I know this matter is very close to the heart of Deputy Martin Kenny. It concerns Sligo Garda station, a regional and divisional headquarters which houses an assistant commissioner, a chief superintendent, a superintendent, 140 gardaí and 20 civilians. For many years it has not been fit for purpose and it was condemned by the regional safety adviser of An Garda Síochána in October 2015. In July 2016 an independent health and safety specialist, Mr. Michael O'Reilly, who was hired by the GRA, also condemned the cells. Since October 2016 no drinking water has been available. We all salute the heroics of a number of gardaí who, on no less than four occasions throughout the summer months, saved people from the River Garavogue but did not have a shower to warm them up and clean themselves in afterwards.
This is totally unacceptable and a walkout was arranged by staff in October 2016, although it was deferred on the basis of absolute assurances from management that temporary works would be carried out to make the existing Garda station usable and safe until a new Garda regional headquarters was built. To this day no works have happened and this is totally unacceptable and an insult to the people of the north-west region. This regional office is the headquarters for Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal and Louth.
This is happening against the backdrop of the cynical reopening of Stepaside Garda station. An apparent leak to the media from a report to which the Committee of Public Accounts, of which I am a member, was refused access suggests the decision was based on population increases, which is another dubious retrofit to satisfy political gain. In Meath, the Garda stations in Kilmessan and Crosskeel have closed while Athboy and Oldcastle are push-button situations. However, there has been a 59% increase in property theft and an increase in burglaries of 44% in that county. The county has also had the same increase in population, according to census 2016, as Dublin at 5.9% but Stepaside was a very specific case, at the expense of the likes of Sligo and Meath. What is the reason for this?
The people cannot take politicians seriously unless they do what they say they are going to do but the Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran, was in Sligo on 21 August and said we would have a site for the new Garda station within three or four weeks. This is week six but nothing has happened except an absence of drinking water, condemned cells and prisoners in a regional headquarters being transported 15 miles after public order arrests on a Saturday night. What is it that the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, has? Outside the Step Inn, in the run-up to Christmas 2015, the champion Independent could be seen wearing a Santa Claus hat. Straddling him was Councillor Kevin Daly holding a sign reading "Open Stepaside Garda station". What happened? It is reopened based on a spurious criterion while the people of Sligo are forced to suffer and the people of Meath, with the same population increase as Dublin, are dismissed and thrown under the bus.
Does the sum of the Ministers, the Meath Deputies Regina Doherty, Damien English and Helen McEntee, not equal the influence the great almighty himself, the Minister, Deputy Ross, has on Government? The assistant Whip, Deputy Tony McLoughlin, Deputy Eamon Scanlon, Deputy Martin Kenny and I represent three different political entities and are all committed to the same thing. Do we have no say? When it comes to giving gardaí the basic working conditions they deserve, are we making the criteria up as we go along?