I welcome the Minister to the House and thank him for taking this Adjournment matter which relates specifically to a well manned Garda station. Obviously he has had to make decisions about Garda resources, the restriction in opening hours at Garda stations and the closure of other stations.
I ask specifically about Malahide Garda station which serves 25,000 in the Malahide-Kinsealy-Portmarnock area. The Department of Justice and Equality and the Garda Commissioner's report have recommended that the hours be restricted. What was the rationale for that recommendation? I note the Minister's response to my colleague, Deputy Dara Calleary who asked if the Minister would confirm that this is a Cabinet decision, as opposed to a Garda Commissioner's decision because it had to be ratified by the Government. This is an area in which I grew up, which has expanded greatly and the Garda provide an excellent service. Residents are extremely concerned at the restrictions in opening hours at Malahide and Howth Garda stations. It means that 50,000 people in the Howth-Malahide local electoral area are without a full-time Garda station. I seek clarification on how it is proposed to operate these stations after 10 p.m.
Our concern is that crime does not stop at 10 p.m. In the north Dublin area we have the closure of Rush Garda station which up to now was a part-time station. I am also concerned that placing a restriction on the opening hours of the station affects the status of the Garda station, that effectively it is a second class station and that we would be on a slippery slope towards closure at some time in the future. Will the Minister confirm that will not be the case? How is it envisaged the station will operate? Will the station be manned? Will telephones be answered in the station post 10 p.m.? How will it operate at weekends and during the tourist season?
While the Minister resides in the southside and I am in the north county, I am sure it is an area that attracts many thousands of tourists each year. Everyone is genuinely concerned. I am not trying to over-politicise the point, I am concerned as a resident of the town. There are further restrictions at Howth Garda station with which other colleagues will deal.
In a growing area such as this where there are approximately 38 gardaí, if these changes occur, Swords, which is the nearest full-time station, will have to deal with all incidents from Kinsealy, Portmarnock, Baskin, Malahide, and all the way to the peninsula in Howth, encompassing Sutton and Baldoyle. I hope this issue can be looked at again and the decision revised in order that 24 hour, seven day a week cover can be provided at the station. I am opposed to the decision. I do not think it will result in any savings. I would be interested to know if there are any financial savings accruing from this decision.
Given that part-time stations, such as Rush in north Dublin, are now closed, I cannot see how any financial savings can be made with the closure of that station and the restrictions at Malahide Garda station. As the Minister is aware, it is our duty as Oireachtas Members to ensure our citizens are safe. I do not believe that restricting the opening hours and closing public access to a Garda station such as at Malahide, will do anything to improve people's safety, and I ask him to improve Garda presence.