By Dan Walsh
An Garda Siochána is in the news this week. Chief Superintendent Derek Hughes shall assume responsibility for Wexford and Wicklow Garda Divisions on promotion. Chief Superintendent Anthony Pettit shall assume responsibility for Waterford and Kilkenny/ Carlow Garda Divisions on transfer, commencing on February 22nd.
Courtown has seen one of the greatest decreases in Garda numbers of all stations in Wexford over the past decade, according to Official Garda figures published by the Department of Justice that gives information on policing in Co. Wexford in the ten years, 2013 to 2022.
There are concerns at the level of cover. Courtown Harbour Station has decreased by 75% from four to one. Bunclody Garda Station has decreased by 50% from eight to four.
Meanwhile, larger urban areas in the county have seen a rise in numbers in the same period, including Enniscorthy, Gorey, Wexford and New Ross.
At a recent Wicklow and Wexford Joint Policing Committee (JPC) meeting held at the Ashdown Park Hotel, Gorey, Chief Superintendent Anthony Pettit acknowledged concerns around staffing levels in Courtown Garda Station, among others. Some local councillors had raised concerns and sought clarity on the matter.
“We need to make sure that urban areas are stocked and then we can look at the likes of Courtown, Ferns and Bunclody,” he said at the meeting. “We hope to be in a better position next year.”
“The Garda District and Station Rationalisation Programme, which was implemented in An Garda Síochána during 2012 and 2013, sought to identify opportunities to introduce strategic reforms to enhance service delivery, increase efficiency and streamline practices within An Garda Síochána. “The review concluded that a revised district and station network commensurate with the organisation’s resource base would best meet public demand.
“On foot of the Programme, some 139 Garda stations were closed and some 32 districts were amalgamated to create 16 enlarged districts.
As part of this process, in November 2013, the Gorey District was amalgamated with the Enniscorthy District resulting in an enlarged Enniscorthy District and I (Deputy Brendan Howlin) am informed that no station within the former Gorey District was closed. I have been advised by the Garda authorities that the District Officer at Enniscorthy, in conjunction with the Inspector at Gorey, ensure that the policing arrangements within the Gorey area are effectively managed on an ongoing basis and there is no diminution in the policing service provided within the context of existing available resources in the Gorey area.” (Source; The Dáil Record).
While working for the Gorey Echo I covered numerous public meetings in Gorey town and district where the community was calling out loudly for promotion and more gardaí to cover Gorey town, Courtown Harbour and the rural areas of North Wexford.
Another significant development in Co. Wexford was the closure of Wexford Garda Station and the official opening of the newly constructed Divisional Headquarters at Mulgannon, Wexford.
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan T.D. was joined by the Acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó’Cualáin to open the new Garda Station in Wexford town costing €29 million on August 1st 2018.
Speaking at the opening, Minister Flanagan said: “We are now seeing the results of the unprecedented public funding provided to An Garda Síochána in recent years.
“The opening of the new Divisional Headquarters is taking place at a time of major reform and investment which will redefine our national police service as an organisation.”
The new Wexford Garda Station on Mulgannon Road in Wexford Town was designed by the Office of Public Works (OPW) Architectural Services team led by State Architect Ciaran O’Connor.
And the current figures: Other stations in Wexford have also seen changes in garda numbers over the past decade.
Wexford: 133 (up from 85). Enniscorthy: 60 (up from 36). Gorey: 56 (up from 45). New Ross: 54 (up from 41), Rosslare Harbour: 11 (up from 6), Bunclody: 4 (down from 8). Taghmon: 3 (down from 1). Ferns: 3 (up from 2). Ballycullane: 2 (same as 2013). Kilmore Quay: 2 (down from 4). Carrickbyrne: 2 (same as 2013). Castlebridge: 2 (down from 3). Clonroche: 2 (up from 1). Duncannon: 2 (down from 4). Glynn: 2 (up from 1). Rosslare Strand: 2 (same as 2013). Campile: 1 (up from 0). Carrick-on-Bannow: 1 (same as 2013). Blackwater: 0 (down from 2). Oulart: 0 (down from 1). Oylegate: 0 (down from 1).
A relatively new feature in rural areas is the arrival of pop-up garda stations and chatting benches.