A spokesperson for An Garda Síochána confirmed yesterday that the Garda Commissioner is reviewing a proposal to move the Garda District Headquarters from Glenties.
In response to a question about the status of the proposal to move the headquarters, a spokesperson confirmed in a written statement that the matter was under review by the commissioner, “and as such no final decision has been made”.
The issue came before the public last month when Pearse Doherty, Sinn Féin TD for Donegal South West, raised it after speaking with concerned local residents.
“I am aware that there is huge anxiety within the community of Glenties of the loss of jobs and the effect this review, if unfavourable, will have on the local economy,” Deputy Doherty said yesterday. “Political pressure has to be applied at the highest level to ensure that the loss of headquarter status, the loss of jobs in Glenties, does not go ahead.
“There has been a concerted effort at government level to strip rural areas of services,” Deputy Doherty said, adding that he will fight to retain all rural services.
Last month the deputy said there was speculation that a report by the commissioner in the near future could contain a proposal to remove the headquarters from Glenties, dividing the responsibilities between Milford and Ballyshannon. There are between 30 and 40 staff in Glenties, now the district headquarters for a west Donegal area that stretches from Kilcar to Gweedore.
“We can’t understand, the people of Glenties, especially under these recessionary times when crime is on the increase, that there would be any talk of cutting down manpower or having a station not open 24 hours,” said Carmel Doherty, chairperson of the Glenties Community Action Group. “It’s just another service taken away from another town that’s suffering so badly with recession,” she said, adding that about 30 young people have already left Glenties in search of employment.
“We would be very concerned in the west of the county,” independent local Cllr. Terence Slowey said. “If they moved from Glenties, staff numbers would be seriously reduced, and that would impact on the community in terms of a lesser service in west Donegal.” The councillor also said a reduction in staff would have a knock-on effect on the community and local businesses.
Labour Sen. Jimmy Harte, who questioned Sinn Féin’s commitment to the Glenties headquarters when Deputy Doherty raised the issue last month, said yesterday, “Everything is going to be under review in the country, all public service and private businesses in the country over the last couple of years have been under review, and I don’t think the Garda office in Glenties would be any different.”
However, the senator said he hoped that the ongoing review would not result in a reduced Garda presence for the area, and said he has been calling for an increased Garda presence in the county. “Garda stations don’t fight crime - it’s the gardaí on the street,” Sen. Harte said.
Last month, Fianna Fáil Sen. Brian Ó Domhnaill told the Seanad that the Minister for Justice had said the policing plan for 2013 had not yet been finalised, but the minister had failed to give a guarantee in the Seanad about the future of the Glenties district station.
“In my view that shows a total lack of commitment to rural policing,” Sen Ó Domhnaill said.