Builders not yet recruited to make Portlaoise Garda Station ready for Laois, Offaly Kildare divisional HQ status

Leinster Express Reporter

Reporter:

Leinster Express Reporter

Portlaoise Garda Station

Portlaoise Garda Station

The good news that Portlaoise is set to be upgraded as the policing hub for Laois, Offaly and Kildare has been tempered by confirmation that there is no timeframe on the hiring of builders for the multi-million euro overhaul of the town's Garda Station.

The Office of Public Works and Garda HQ in the Phoenix Park Dublin are working jointly on the project. In a statement, the OPW said the programme for the refurbishment of Garda accommodation is managed and progressed by An Garda Síochána working in close co-operation with the Office of Public Works, (OPW).

“The design stage is still ongoing, it is not possible at this stage to give exact timeframes for the procurement process for contractors. However, it is anticipated that work on this project will begin in 2020,” the OPW told the Leinster Express this week.

When re-developed the station will be a Divisional and county HQ for Laois.

Provisional plans exist to rebuild and expand Portlaoise Garda Station and the project was given the green light in 2017.

“The Portlaoise Garda station project is included in the Garda Capital Investment Programme 2016-2021, which is an ambitious five -year Programme based on agreed priorities established by An Garda Síochána that will benefit over thirty locations around the country. The design stage is still ongoing, it is not possible at this stage to give exact timeframes for the procurement process for contractors.

The OPW tendered for consultants in March.

Laois TD and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan welcomed this but called for the refurbishment to be “accelerated” to facilitate the new divisional status.

Laois Gardaí expect construction work to begin in 2020 on a major renovation of Portlaoise Garda Station ahead of the designation of the building as the new headquarters of policing in Laois, Offaly and Kildare.

Confirmation that the Laois town will be the Laois/Offaly/Kildare Divisional HQ was revealed by garda management under reforms which, it is claimed, will produce the new operating model for policing.

There will be relief in Portlaoise at the news, given that the town is already home to two large prisons.

The existing Laois Offaly Division Garda HQ in Portlaoise is located in an old building which is earmarked for substantial redevelopment due to shortcomings with facilities.

Portlaoise's Garda Chief Superintendent Anthony Pettit said welcomed the decision.

He said the transition would not happen overnight and some divisions would merge sooner than others.

“For example work on our new building will start next year. At the end of a two year (construction) period, we will be in a position to have better accommodation than most divisions in the country.

“In the meantime, we won't be in that position so there will be decisions that have to be made in relation to what units will be moved to Portlaoise or set up units in other locations and then move everybody to Portlaoise once the building is finished,” he said.

The superintendent said decisions would have to be made around the allocations of superintendents as the new reforms will mean policing will no longer focus on geographical areas.

He said a professional service would be delivered regardless.

“Our message to the public is that the frontline will not be affected. In fact, as time goes on we expect that the front line will be enhanced,” he said.

Supt Pettit said that the aim of the plan is to eradicate duplication in roles across divisions and the setting up of specialist units.

The new three-county division will serve a large geographical area that stretches from the River Shannon to the River Liffey. Kildare, with a population of more than 222,000, represents the biggest part of the division.

Supt Pettit said the removal of the border with Kildare will be of assistance and would see more garda resources available to the public.

Portlaoise will retain a Divisional Chief Superintendent.

The new division will fall under the Garda's Eastern Region which will be headquartered in Kilkenny where the Regional Chief Superintendent will be based.

The new regional chief will be based in Kilkenny and is due to be appointed shortly. That person will have responsibility for implementation.

Garda HQ says a wide range of operational factors have been considered when deciding where the new Regional and Divisional Headquarters should be based.

It says these factors included: population, geography, projected growth, crime trends and workload across a range of work-streams.

Laois TD and Minister for Justice & Equality Charlie Flanagan welcomed the announcement that Portlaoise would retain its divisional status.

“I want to acknowledge the hard work and dedicated commitment to police work by the (Laois Offaly) Chief Superintendent John Scanlon and his team, towards detecting and investigating crime and keeping communities free from harm.

“From now on Portlaoise Garda Station will be an even busier Divisional HQ and it is vital that the multi-million refurbishment of Portlaoise Garda Station is accelerated to facilitate the new divisional offices,” he said.

Gardaí reached a deal with the Department of Defence to reconfigure and expand the Portlaoise Station. Under this compromised, the Defence Forces have been offered a new build in Portlaoise where soldiers can prepare for duty at Portlaoise Prison. A building to the rear of the Garda Station is currently used.

The building which houses Portlaoise Garda Station was built in the early 1800s and is a former military barracks.