I wish to raise tonight the proposed downgrading of the Mallow Road Garda station in Cork, which presently has two sergeants and nine gardaí. The proposal is that one garda and one sergeant remain at the Mallow Road Garda station on a 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. six-day week basis, Monday to Saturday, and that the other sergeant and eight gardaí report on a daily basis to the Watercourse Road Garda station in Blackpool.
It is my understanding that this proposal is with the chief superintendent in Cork in order to solve a problem in the Watercourse Road Garda station. The implementation of this proposal would transfer the problem from Watercourse Road Garda station to the Mallow Road Garda station. The Mallow Road Garda station serves the catchment area of Whites Cross, Sunset Ridge, Monard, Parklands, Ballyvolane, Bride Valley View and Fair Hill in Cork city as well as the Mallow Road area itself. The area has a large population of elderly people and many businesses there would feel very exposed to vandalism and robbery if the station were to be downgraded.
This proposal is all about the shortage of manpower in the Cork area. Implementation of the proposal would result in the whole catchment area that I have named being completely stripped of real Garda service and real Garda presence. I hope that I do not hear the Minister say in his reply that the proposal is part of a move to reorganise Garda services in Cork to provide a better service to the community, because I believe truly effective Garda service to any community comes from the presence of gardaí in that area, with gardaí using the contacts they have and the relationships that they build up with the people. The relationship is two-way: the gardaí protect the public and the public support the gardaí.
I ask the Minister tonight to tell me that he is rejecting the proposal as set out. As I have said, it is my belief that the proposal concerns a lack of manpower in the Watercourse Road Garda station and that the problem would merely be transferred to Mallow Road Garda station from Watercourse Road Garda station. Watercourse Road Garda station provides Cork Prison with escort and patrol services.
It is a sad indictment on the system that this kind of proposal be made, especially in view of the results of a recent survey carried out by myself as my party's urban affairs spokesman. From a 600 person survey carried out in my constituency in the city I discovered, to my amazement, that 50 per cent of those who were affected by crime in the past four years did not even bother to contact the gardaí about the matter because they felt that the gardaí had neither the resources nor the manpower to investigate minor crime. That is a sad indictment on the manner in which Garda resources are stretched to the limit at present.
I ask the Minister to do two things: to immediately veto any proposal to downgrade Mallow Road Garda station and to give an assurance tonight that he will give adequate Garda manpower to the services in Cork. It is only by providing a service within the community that there will be an effective Garda presence and Garda service. We do not want Garda service by remote control or from distant, centralised units. It is only when gardaí live in the community and are with the community that they will be able to deliver a service. There is great support for the gardaí in Cork, who are committed people; committed people who are stretched to the limit but are determined to protect the people whom they are paid to protect. The Minister has it in his power to veto this unwise proposal and I ask him to do so.