A small Longford community have made a last ditch plea to garda chiefs to keep their local garda station open by offering to cover its day to day running costs.
Locals and business representatives from the Ballinalee area submitted the proposal to Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan’s office over the past few days after their station closed alongside 94 others on Thursday afternoon.
It also comes following renewed station closure protests at the weekend, the most significant of which came at Stepaside in Co Dublin, the home constituency of Justice Minister Alan Shatter.
Around 1,500 people took part with a number of people forming a human chain around the station as part of the demonstration.
Closer to home, the people of Ballinalee are hoping the offer to foot the station’s utility costs and other overheads will force a last minute u-turn.
“We have put forward a proposal on behalf of the community to the Commissioner (Martin Callinan) to foot the running costs and maintenance,” said local postmaster and County Councillor Micheal Carrigy.
The Fine Gael representative said the offer made perfect sense given that one of the main reasons behind the Government’s heavily criticised “consolidation” programme of the Garda Station network was for cost saving factors.
“We (local community) feel that if we promise to meet these costs then there is no cost at all to the State,” he said.
The proposal which Cllr Carrigy said is being considered by two of Commissioner Callinan’s deputies, is just the latest in a recent series of measures local residents have undertaken in recent weeks.
At the end of last month, a public meeting was held to discuss what ramifications were likely to a locality that has retained an almost constant policing presence since the mid 1920s.
“It’s not just Ballinalee that the station serves, there is also Cullyfad, Killoe and Bunlahy so you are talking about something in the region of 2,500 houses,” said Cllr Carrigy.
It’s not known when a decision by senior Garda personnel on the Ballinalee proposal is likely with the region’s most senior officer, Supt Ian Lackey declining to comment earlier this week.
Since last Thursday six other villages and small towns across the Longford and midlands region have seen their own Garda stations close for the last time.
Among those affected include Ardagh and Newtowncashel in Co Longford, buildings at Cloone and Dromod in Leitrim as well as Westmeath’s Rathowen and Finea Garda Stations.
Like Cllr Carrigy, other local politicians have strongly criticised the cost-saving plans first announced during last December’s Budget.
This disgraceful decision has delivered yet another hammer blow to the traditional Infrastructure of rural Ireland,” said Leitrim Cllr Sean McGowan.
He was speaking after several homeowners staged a protest outside Dromod Garda Station, also last Thursday afternoon.
“The message to all parties concerned now is that rural areas may now provide even richer pickings for the criminal gangs that roam the country by day and by night,” he said, as he indicated the reductions would be discussed further at this month’s meeting of Leitrim Co Council.
A meeting to discuss the closure of Rathowen Garda Station will take place on Thursday, February 7 at 8:30pm in Rathowen Community Centre.