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.