Adjournment Debate. - Garda Stations.

I visited Riverstown Garda station some weeks ago. I inspected the station building, including the official accommodation which is occupied by one garda, the only other member of the Garda stationed at Riverstown apart from the sergeant. The accommodation is in a deplorable condition. The plaster is falling off the walls, there is no central heating and it reeks of dampness. The garda has occupied the accommodation for 15 years. In all that time nothing has been done to refurbish this very old and partially dilapidated building.

Riverstown sub-district is a large sub-district and the amount of work the garda does in his day to day policing of the area, and in the community in general, cannot be evaluated or adequately described in the short time I have. It is clear that this garda is totally dedicated to this work – his regular visits to old people living alone in remote and isolated areas are prime examples of that dedication.

Unless the accommodation he occupies at Riverstown Garda station is refurbished in the near future, he will have to vacate it. The entire station is a health hazard. The garda in question is from Easkey, 30 miles from Riverstown. If he has to vacate the official accommodation there he will have to commute between Easkey and the station. The garda is available on a regular basis to the local community in the Riverstown area, something it appreciates greatly. On several occasions he has given freely of his time to help those in need of Garda assistance. If he is forced to commute 30 miles from his residence to his station, the community will lose the ready availability of the garda, which will be a great pity.

Major refurbishment is planned for the Riverstown station. The drawing – Drawing No. 830/A/02 – for the refurbishment was prepared in September 1997 by Lochlainn Regional Architect, Office of Public Works. The premises were visited by the Garda housing officer in March 1999 following a parliamentary question I asked about the state of the building. Taking into account all that has taken place over the last two years, it is reasonable to expect that this work would have at least started. This is far from the case. I also note under reference number 7/237, dated 26 July 1999, that the Riverstown station is listed for maintenance probably in 2003.

If Riverstown station is left without repairs for another three years, not alone will the garda have to vacate the station, but the public area of the building will also have to be vacated. To remain in occupation of the building would be a health hazard. Unless urgent action is taken, the state of the building will rapidly deteriorate further.

I respectfully request that the Minister takes this matter very seriously with the Garda housing officer at the Office of Public Works, who is already aware of the state of the building, and that it is impressed on him how important this facility is to Riverstown. The garda in question is owed the basic facility of comfortable accommodation in recognition of his service to the community. The station is a hazard to the garda's health. I call on the Minister to issue a major works requisition to commence work immediately on Riverstown Garda station.

I have visited the station myself and could not describe the conditions. The station is like something in the 19th century, not the 21st century. The Garda presence in Riverstown in a time of attacks on old people in isolated areas is an invaluable asset. This sub-district serves a huge area. It would be an outrage if the community were to lose the one garda who resides there. Without the immediate sanction of funding to upgrade the station, that is what will happen.

I thank the Deputy for giving me an opportunity to explain the latest position regarding Riverstown Garda station.

Riverstown Garda station in the Sligo-Leitrim division is a sub-district station with a party of two members, one of garda rank and one sergeant. As Deputy Perry is aware, following an inspection of Riverstown Garda station by the Garda housing officer, the Office of Public Works provided an estimate of substantial costs for the refurbishment of the existing station and official accommodation. In view of the level of available financial resources allocated for major Garda refurbishment projects, consultations with the Office of Public Works are continuing to determine the most economically advantageous option to improve the garda accommodation at Riverstown. As an interim measure, the station was painted externally and internally last July.

Regarding the progress on the more substantive issue of refurbishing the existing station, it will be appreciated that all such major projects must proceed in accordance with the priorities of the Garda building programme. The programme is designed to ensure the ordered, timely and economically efficient construction or major refurbishment of Garda stations as policing requirements demand and overall priorities allow.

There are a number of building projects which require attention before work may proceed at Riverstown. The Minister cannot, therefore, give an indication at this time when precisely construction work will commence. I can assure the House, however, that he is determined to see the project proceed and that there will be no avoidable delay in providing new accommodation at this location.

It is important to bear in mind that a great deal of work has been done in recent years in improving standards of accommodation at Garda stations throughout the State. It is, however, a large scale operation. The programme of improvement has a high priority both with the Minister and the Government. This year, for instance, £10 million has been provided for major new construction projects in the Office of Public Works Vote and £4 million will be spent on the maintenance of Garda stations. The gardaí occupy 703 Garda stations and other units of accommodation, including married quarters, large complexes like Templemore and Garda Headquarters, and a variety of smaller units. Many of the buildings occupied by them were built before the foundation of the State and were designed for a different era. This extensive resource, while invaluable in guaranteeing the provision of police services to the community, creates its own unique maintenance and refurbishment demands. I accept Deputy Perry's comments about the importance of having gardaí in the community. Consequently, all Garda accommodation is continually under review to ensure it meets the operational requirements of the force. Where it does not, necessary works will be prioritised and completed with alacrity.

A great deal of work has been carried out in recent years to improve the situation and I am sure Members will all acknowledge the improvements to Garda stations and the building of new stations in recent years.