Two Laois TDs have clashed over the decision to downgrade Abbeyleix Garda Station.
Government TD Charlie Flanagan has hit out at Sean Fleming for blaming the downgrade of the station on the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter to Abbeyleix Garda District and to cancel the appointment of a replacement garda superintendent in Abbeyleix. While Dep Fleming blamed the Minister, Dep Flanagan said it is senior garda management who have made the call on Abbeyleix.
Minister Shatter informed Deputy Sean Fleming in a written answer to a parliamentary question: “That as of the 29th of April 2012 Abbeyleix Garda District and Portlaoise Garda District will be amalgamated to form the new Portlaoise Garda District”.
“The decision by the Minister to downgrade Abbeyleix Garda Station and remove its key strategic role for all of South Laois is an absolute disgrace and must be reversed. Up to now the Garda District Headquarters in Abbeyleix had responsibility for all policing matters in South County Laois covering Abbeyleix, Durrow, Rathdowney, Borris in Ossory, Ballacolla, Ballinakill, Ballylinan and Arles. The superintendent in Portlaoise had responsibility for Portlaoise, Mountmellick, Clonaslee, Portarlington, Stradbally and Mountrath,” said Dep Fleming.
Dep Fleming noted that while the Abbeyleix Garda Station will continue to function as a local garda station there will be a serious reduction in garda numbers.
“While the Minister has said that personnel issues are a matter for the commissioner, the commissioner will have no option only to reduce the number of guards in Abbeyleix now that the Minister has decided to downgrade its role as a district headquarters.
The decision to downgrade Abbeyleix and all policing activities and support for County Laois flies in the face of the requirements of local people. Recently published figures show that there has been a massive increase in crime in rural areas.Garda numbers should be maintained not reduced. Deputy Fleming said the announcement by the Minister is a shock to the area and will be greeted with dismay by Community Alert groups.
However, Dep Flanagan said the Fiana Fail TD was not being sincere.
“These new arrangements in relation to Abbeyleix were published last December. They seem to have been missed by Deputy Fleming who is entirely disingenuous in blaming the Minister for Justice. Deputy Fleming knows full well the the Garda Commisioner in consultation with the senior management team is responsible for resources and personel and the Minister has no function,” he said.
Dep Flanagan acknowledged that the station would lose its status and superintendent. but said the crime trends in the area were being monitored. He said he spoke last week to senior gardai about the appointment of a superintendent for Portlaoise and a chief super for the division.
The Fine Gael TD said there were 37 gardai in the Abbeyleix district with 24 officers based at the town’s station along with five reservists. He said he was also working to secure extra garda cars for south Laois.