I propose to take Questions Nos. 255, 278 and 284 together.
As the Deputies will appreciate, the Office of Public Works (OPW) has primary responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation and works closely with the Garda authorities in this regard. As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters.
It is, of course, a matter of concern when people consider that their working environment does not meet acceptable standards. The Deputies will be aware that the Garda Station Building and Refurbishment Programme 2016-2021 includes provision for a new Garda station to be provided in Sligo, together with stations in Macroom and Clonmel, by means of Public Private Partnership and I understand that the OPW is now actively progressing the acquisition of a suitable site in Sligo for the proposed development.
In relation to the current situation at the station, I am assured by the Garda Commissioner that arrangements are in place to ensure that the provision of policing services to the community in Sligo is fully maintained. As part of those arrangements a Public Office, Radio Control Room, and briefing facilities have been established on a temporary basis at another location in close proximity to the station.
The arrangements are reviewed on a daily basis to ensure that the policing service provided to the community of Sligo in terms of service to victims, responses to requests for assistance, high visibility patrols and checkpoints, etc., continues as normal.
I understand that Garda management engaged in lengthy discussions with the representatives of the GRA on Friday 17 November 2017 and set out a comprehensive set of written proposals with the objective of accelerating facility and remedial works at the station and making them a time-bound priority. The proposals focus on the refurbishment of the station and the improvement of services and amenities for the benefit of all the station party. In addition, the OPW has recently tendered for the provision of a new male and female two-storey locker facility to be in place by the end of April 2018. Planning permission for this has been secured and the tender documents are to be returned to the OPW by 6 December, 2017.
I also understand that Garda management has proposed the establishment of a working group, broadly representative of the station party and under the direction of the local Chief Superintendent, to drive consultation process and to address the issues of concern. I would encourage this dialogue in the interests of resolving those issues.
The Deputy will be aware that the GRA has engaged an external Consulting Engineer who has prepared a report in respect of the station. An Garda Síochána has requested the OPW, as the property owners and building agents of An Garda Síochána, to review that report and to advise on the suggested health and safety and fire safety breaches therein and any remedial actions that can be taken to address any breaches arising.
The OPW has advised that the station, having being built and refurbished prior to the introduction of the Building Regulations (1992), is deemed to be exempt from the Regulations and the requirement to obtain a Fire Certificate. However, the provisions of the Fire Services Acts of 1981 and 2003 are relevant to the station.
The Acting Chief Fire Officer in Sligo has advised that, following a fire safety inspection conducted on 25 November 2017, he is satisfied that Garda management are fulfilling their obligations under Section 18 (2) of the Fire Services Acts as far as is reasonably practicable and that, from a fire safety perspective, it is safe for personnel of An Garda Síochána to occupy the premises.
Further, on Monday 27 November 2017, two inspectors from the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) visited the station and identified some necessary improvement works of a relatively minor nature. Based on their observations and assurances given in relation to planned improvements that are to be made, the HSA advised that it would have no concerns about members of An Garda Síochána using the station as a place of work.
The OPW considers that, while the building requires some upgrade works in order to bring it completely in line with current regulations, it is safe and fit for occupation. These upgrade works were included in proposed scheme of works that were submitted to An Garda Síochána for consideration and approval (and referred to in the proposals made by Garda management to the GRA at the meeting on 17 November 2017).