The need for a new Garda station in Macroom has been well established for a number of years. There was a threat to walk out of the station in 2010, health and safety reports were critical of the building and it has been on the Government's building programme for many years. In 2014, Government representatives were even promising that the station would not be allowed to slip behind. While the station in Macroom is on the building programme, no advance has been made since the land purchase concluded nearly four years ago. That is because Macroom has been bundled in with Clonmel and Sligo and it has had to wait for them to catch up. The Office of Public Works, OPW, confirmed earlier this year that those land purchases were concluded for the last of those stations. There is no reason now for any further delay.
The building is an old Royal Irish Constabulary barracks and it is showing its age. Reports have indicated the difficulty people have working there and it is also unsatisfactory for the public going in to use the station. It is very limited from the point of view of privacy, for example, if someone is going in to report an incident or getting documentation signed. Imagine as well someone trying to bring a buggy in. The space is limited and tight, especially if anybody else is in the reception area. Locals should have access to a station that is up to standard and they also want to know that their gardaí have the best resources available to them.
I have highlighted this situation with various Ministers and in parliamentary questions in recent years. The Cork county joint policing committee has also highlighted the need to advance Macroom's new Garda divisional headquarters but it feels there is constant fobbing off. The new station is in a bundle with Clonmel and Sligo and those land purchases needed to be concluded. As stated, however, the OPW has confirmed that those land purchases concluded in the spring of this year so that should not be a reason for any further delay.
The new site in Macroom also accommodates a fire station, and the county council has been trying to get information on the shared entrance. That has caused a delay on advancing the fire station as well. As I said, the new reorganisation of Garda divisions has identified Macroom as the new divisional headquarters. This should surely increase the status of the station and add greater urgency to the new build. I commend the staff working there who are delivering a top-class service from what is an unsuitable and cramped building.
The building is not, however, the only challenge. I draw the Minister's attention to the number of gardaí stationed in the town.
Many people are concerned that the station is understaffed. The Garda Representative Association has been vocal on the matter, pointing out how it is not unusual for the station to be closed in order to deploy a two-person car to adequately respond to calls. There have been eight retirements from the west Cork Garda division in the past year but no new gardaí were assigned in the two most recent recruitment drives. While there are demands from many quarters for additional gardaí, Macroom and the west Cork division need particular attention.
The Macroom station project is bundled with those relating to Sligo and Clonmel. This has caused delays, even though a site in Macroom has been available for the past five years. The National Development Finance Agency, NDFA, has been examining the public private partnership, PPP, option for funding for over a year at this point. It needs direction from the Department of Justice and Equality to prioritise the projects it wants to advance. Has the Department identified the priority projects? Has the bundle of which Macroom is a part been identified as a priority? There has been a site available in Macroom for over four years. There has already been a considerable delay and it is now time for this project to be progressed.