Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Ceisteanna (103)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

103. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the progress to date in carrying out refurbishment works at the Garda station in Bawnboy, County Cavan, to enable it to reopen as announced by the Department of Justice and Equality some time ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26729/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (6 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Public)

The acting Garda Commissioner in November 2017, in a report to the Department of Justice and Equality, outlined that An Garda Síochána had decided to reopen six Garda stations that had been closed some years previously. He outlined to the Department that he had been in touch with the OPW with regard to the necessary modernisation or upgrading of any of the Garda stations so chosen. The Garda station in Bawnboy, my home village, was one of the six that it was decided to reopen and we were told work would commence in a relatively short time. The station has been modernised and upgraded. What progress has there been to date?

The programme for Government provided for a pilot programme of station reopenings throughout the country, including Bawnboy Garda station. The OPW undertook technical surveys on the building and issued a report to Garda estate management on the works required, the indicative costs involved and a proposed layout. The deliberative process between An Garda Síochána and the OPW to finalise proposals is ongoing. On final Garda sign-off, the office will prepare, submit and publicise the necessary Part 9 planning application and progress the procurement of works required to reopen the station, which is expected to take place in 2020. In the interim, the OPW is arranging enabling works that are necessary prior to the removal of asbestos.

The same wording used in that reply was used in a reply to a parliamentary question I asked in 2018 or 2019 about this deliberative process between the OPW and An Garda Síochána. This is not a massive development; it is a relatively small-scale project.

The former Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, was very supportive of reopening Bawnboy Garda station when I put questions to him in the House on this issue in the past. I think it was early in 2019 that, in response to a parliamentary question, he indicated that the station would reopen before the end of 2019. Subsequently, in September 2019, the then Minister of State with responsibility for the OPW, Kevin Boxer Moran, indicated that the station would reopen by mid-2020.

What progress has been made in this deliberative process in regard to getting plans finalised and construction commenced?

One of the problems faced in this project was obtaining approval, due to universal access requirements for building compliance, which, as the Deputy will understand, is necessary. There was also a question about whether these stations should have married quarters attached to them when operational, and An Garda Síochána has yet to decide whether such accommodation is to be part of the functions of the reopened station.

A fast-track application is being prepared under Part 9 and that is expected to happen this year.

I would like the Minister of State to insist with the OPW that it stick to the timeframe this time, which I would greatly appreciate. It was only last week that the Garda Commissioner joined us at a meeting of the Cavan joint policing committee, where we spoke about the difficulties in policing a long land border with a different jurisdiction. Bawnboy is a small village in west County Cavan with a rural community and it is a long way to the next Garda station. At the time it was closed, I argued, along with the local community, for it to be reinstated and was very glad when the then Garda Commissioner announced it was one of the stations that would reopen. The local community is anxious that the station be reinstated as soon as possible.

What was brought home to very clearly during the recent Covid-19 pandemic was the value of community policing and the presence of members of An Garda Síochána in our communities. It is a comfort for communities when they know of the local Garda presence, which a local Garda station facilitates. I ask the Minister of State to relay the message to officials at the OPW that we want movement on this as rapidly as possible.

I appreciate the Deputy's concerns about security, particularly around the Border area. Six stations were identified for reopening as part of the pilot programme, four of which have thus far reopened, with Bawnboy and Leighlinbridge the two that remain. There has been progress on this but I appreciate the Deputy's point on the concerns of local people about having community policing in place. I will ask the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donovan, to revert to him on the topic.