Fixed opening hours and difficulties getting resources such as new patrol cars could be the long cost the public look set to pay for the downgrade of Abbeyleix Garda Station.
The station is no longer a District Headquarters and administration will now be based in Portlaoise, as a result of the loss of the Superintendent who recently retired. A spokesperson for Abbeyleix Gardai said that while services for the public would not be be affected, it could become more difficult harder for the station to get things like a new car, and, although in the short term it would remain a 24 hour station, there were plans to close it over night.
“There is a plan, that will come into effective in around three or four months, for the station to have fixed opening hours during the day. But there will be officers, who are based in Abbeyleix, on patrol on a 24-hour basis,” said the spokesman.
However, Brian Maher, chairman of the Abbeyleix Business and Community Forum, said the impact was already been felt.
“It is a great concern to us that at 10 o’clock in the evening it is no longer available. It is a satellite to Portlaoise and if you ring you’ll be put through to Portlaoise. It is scary when you consider that it covers a huge catchment from Durrow to Rathdowney,” he said.
At Monday’s meeting of Laois County Council, Cllr John Joe Fennelly demanded that the downgrade be reversed.
“Abbeyleix Gardaí respond to all of south Laois, from Arles down to Rathdowney and Errill. This decision to downgrade is flying in the face of the dramatic increase in rural crime. I am asking them to reverse this decision. It’s ironic that yesterday we were marching trying to save the hospital, and the co-operation from the Gardaí was second to none, on the last day of the of the garda station as it was,” he said.
Cllr John Moran said it was ridiculous that Carlow or Kildare gardaí could not respond to a crime just over the Laois border.
“Athy and Carlow are within five miles of Arles, indeed Killeen and Barrowhouse, yet they have to get Abbeyleix guards. It’s absolutely ridiculous that they can’t have rings around a station. You can see the size on a map that Abbeyleix covers,” he said.