Seanad Éireann - Volume 114 - 01 October, 1986
Adjournment Matter. - Oldcastle (Meath) Garda Station.
Mr. Lynch Mr. Lynch
Mr. Lynch: I thank the Cathaoirleach for allowing me to raise this issue once again in this House and I thank the Minister of State for coming here tonight.
The issue regarding Oldcastle Garda Station was first raised by me in the Seanad on 20 November 1985. On that occasion I outlined the extremely bad condition of that Garda station and the urgent need to carry out the necessary structural repairs to alleviate the problem there. I will not go into details with regard  to those structural problems. The Minister received a report of 20 November 1985 which outlined these problems in detail and I will not delay the House by repeating them here tonight. However, I would like to refer to the reply of the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy J. Bermingham on that occasion:
I preface my remarks by saying that I sympathise with the gardaí who have lived in such conditions since 1922. I accept that the accommodation is inadequate for the needs of the gardaí. I am pleased to be able to say that the Office of Public Works have prepared a modernisation scheme for this station which has been accepted by the Department of Justice and the necessary funds have been allocated to it. The scheme involves the amalgamation of married quarters and the station proper will provide (1) a sergeant's office, (2) an interview room, (3) a doctor's room, (4) a cell, (5) a kitchen, (6) toilet and accommodation, (7) storage, (8) improved electrical and heating services and (9) complete internal and external redecoration. I claim with some pride that this is the first time any improvements have been made to Oldcastle Garda station since 1922.
The Office of Public Works expect to place a contract for the scheme early in 1986 and complete it by August or September of next year. Regrettably, the planning of the scheme was delayed due to the shortage of architectural staff. The money has been allocated. The contract will be placed early in the new year and it is hoped that it will be finished by August or September.
The Minister was there referring to August or September of 1986. I want to bring to the notice of the Minister of State that a contractor moved in to commence work in October 1985. One month's delay seems fair enough, knowing what is involved in a contract. All that was done by the contractor at that time was to break an entrance into the official accommodation and erect a back wall  and gate. Then he left the site for some strange reason. I wrote to the present Minister early in 1986 and I received a reply from her in May. I will quote from that letter now:
I refer further to your recent representations regarding a proposed scheme of works to the Garda Station at Oldcastle, Co. Meath.
I am advised by the Commissioners of Public Works that while tenders were invited recently for the scheme in question the placing of a contract for the execution of the works has had to be deferred as there are not sufficient funds available to finance the works at present. The project will be re-activated as soon as money becomes available.
According to the reply from the Minister of State's predecessor in June, 1985, funds had been allocated for the modernisation scheme of the Garda station in Oldcastle. The present Minister's letter to me seems to be a complete contradiction of a statement given by the former Minister. Tonight I want to know where the original allocation of money went, where it was transferred to. I say with no animosity that there are rumours that a promise was given that a similar amount of money was to be allocated to a Garda station elsewhere. Will that rumour be contradicted tonight? I want to place on record that I am not accusing the Minister of anything here tonight. However, I am now giving her the opportunity to either confirm or deny that the money allocated to Oldcastle Garda station has been diverted to a station elsewhere. It is rumoured that it went to a Garda station in Wexford which would be of much lower priority than Oldcastle and that is why I want the Minister to confirm this for me.
Having set the record straight and our minds being set at rest on that aspect, I want to know exactly what is the situation regarding the future of the Garda station in Oldcastle. It is completely uninhabitable at present and its condition has not improved in 12 months. Will the work  commence and if so, when? Is there a contract and, if so, what is the position with regard to the contractor? This station was given top priority in the State. It is the most dilapidated Garda station in Ireland. It is inhuman to ask any garda to work in the conditions which prevail there at the moment. I was given a commitment in good faith by a former Minister which has not been honoured by the Government. What commitment can the Minister give me here tonight? Will it be honoured? I thank the Minister for listening to my plea and I eagerly await her reply to my question.
Minister of State at the Office of Public Works (Mrs. A. Doyle) Minister of State at the Office of Public Works (Mrs. A. Doyle)
Minister of State at the Office of Public Works (Mrs. A. Doyle): I share Senator Lynch's concern regarding Oldcastle Garda station, a concern he first voiced, as he reminded us this evening, when speaking on the Adjournment debate in this House on 20 November last. Having gone into this matter in some detail I am fully aware that the physical condition of the Garda station has deteriorated to the stage where it can only have a detrimental effect on its efficient operation. I sympathise with the gardaí who have lived and worked in these conditions and I am also particularly conscious of the poor impression such accommodation must make on citizens transacting business in the station premises.
My predecessor, Deputy Joe Bermingham, had hoped — and indeed so stated in this House in November last — that the Office of Public Works would place a contract for a scheme of modernisation works to the station early in 1986 to be completed by August or September of this year. The scheme involved the amalgamation of married quarters and the station proper and would provide, as Senator Lynch pointed out, a sergeant's office, an interview room, a doctor's room, a cell, a kitchen, a toilet and accommodation, storage, improved electrical and heating services and complete internal and external redecoration. Indeed, the Office of Public Works had progressed to the stage where they had invited and processed the  tenders for the work and had on standby a suitable contractor. The contractor to whom the Senator referred earlier is not the one to whom I am referring now. That was a separate issue.
Unfortunately, because of the very stringent financial situation, of which we are all too well aware, the Office of Public Works found it necessary from May 1986 to avoid entering any new contractual commitments in relation to Garda stations and indeed in a number of other areas in which they operate. I took office in late February 1986 and from early May the money under this subhead was exhausted, so I hope there was no implication in the question asked by Senator Lynch that something improper might have happened in relation to a Wexford Garda station. I am totally unaware of what he is alluding to and I underline again that as I was only three months in office it is quite unlikely that I would be able to turn on its head the set of priorities laid down for the Office of Public Works in this area very strictly by the Department of Justice. I reiterate that we operate strictly according to the priorities as laid down by the Department of Justice in relation to the work we do on Garda stations. Their priorities are taken by us in the order they give them to us. The Senator correctly states that Oldcastle is top priority with the Department of Justice and, accordingly that matter is with us at the moment.
Mr. Lynch Mr. Lynch
Mr. Lynch: I thank the Minister for that.
Mrs. A. Doyle Mrs. A. Doyle
Mrs. A. Doyle: The contract for the work to Oldcastle Garda station was hampered by the fact that we could not enter any new contractual commitments since last May. That position has pertained. The Department of Justice, the Office of Public Works and I have agreed that the work to Oldcastle Garda station ranks as top priority and throughout the last few weeks we have been endeavouring to find some way by which it would be possible to allow this work to proceed. I am delighted, therefore, to be  able to say that following further examination it has now been decided that the Office of Public Works will be placing a contract for this scheme next month. I know this news will be most welcome to those people in the Oldcastle area but particularly to those members of the  Garda Síochána who have served us so well from there.
The Seanad adjourned at 8.15 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 2 October 1986.
Seanad Éireann 114 Adjournment Matter. Oldcastle (Meath) Garda Station.