Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, serving and retired members,
I am really pleased to be here with you today on what is a very special occasion for Oranmore and the surrounding area.
The opening of this new Garda Station is an event to be celebrated by both the local Gardaí and the community they serve. My thanks to Chief Superintendent Dónal Ó Cualáin for his warm words of welcome.
Nothing gives me greater pleasure as Minister than to see a project I initiated come to full fruition. I was here on 30 March 2005 to unveil the plans for the new station, and am particularly pleased to be back again today for its official opening. Oranmore is one of the areas of the country where the growth in the economy, in jobs and in the population is very evident and this new station will help An Garda Síochána to cater for the projected increase in population on this side of Galway. Indeed, I would have to say a degree of foresight was exercised at the outset of the project when the plans for the building were expanded specifically with this in mind.
Today's ceremony could not have occurred without the assistance and cooperation of many people and agencies including An Garda Síochána and their main Representative Associations, the Office of Public Works, my own Department and of course, the main contractors, Glenman Corporation. My thanks to one and all for a job well done.
The new station contains all the facilities required in a modern building. I am delighted to see that dry stone walling has been retained where possible and new walling to match has been provided. The Office of Public Works is to be complemented for projecting such a strong civic presence in this picturesque corner of Galway Bay.
Garda Building Programme
I would like to make a few general remarks about the provision of Garda accommodation generally. A major refurbishment and replacement programme of Garda accommodation is currently underway and Oranmore is seeing the benefit of this today. Another such project in the pipeline which will be of interest to many of you here today is the provision of new station facilities for Galway City itself. Since I took office I become aware that existing station facilities in Mill Street Divisional Headquarters did not fulfil all of the Garda requirements for the area. I am glad that a solution has been found to the accommodation needs of the Gardaí on my watch. A new Divisional Headquarters Station will be built on Murrough site opposite GMIT on the Dublin Road while Mill Street will be retained as the city station thus satisfying all the needs of the Gardaí in Galway city and the close links with the community that the Mill Street location has traditionally fostered.
Stations large and small, up and down the country, which are most in need of attention are prioritised and proactively replaced or renovated under a range of different schemes. Between 2005 and the end of this year the Office of Public Works will have spent €112 million on the Garda building programme. Under the National Development Plan 2007-2013 funding of €260 million is provided towards refurbishment of Garda premises and is included in the Office of Public Works capital provisions. In addition, the Garda Building Maintenance budget has been increased this year by €2.1 million to €8.36 million. These are unprecedented levels of funding and are making a lasting impact.
I have constantly repeated the message that this Government continues to provide record resources for anti-crime strategies and an increase of 10% on this year's overall budget for the Force, bringing it to over €1.44 billion, serves to underline my commitment in this respect. By way of example;
- The Government has now authorised a further expansion of recruitment to reach a Force strength of 15,000. I firmly believe that An Garda Síochána needs this increase in strength in order to meet the policing challenges that lie ahead.
- An additional 1,200 civilian staff have been approved so that the Garda Commissioner can release Gardaí from administrative functions for operational policing job they were trained to do and want to do.
- Over 1,200 new Garda vehicles were procured in 2006, renewing half of the entire Garda fleet in just one year, and there will be further investment this year.
- Over 80 additional Garda stations have been connected to PULSE during the past 12 months. I am glad to say that Oranmore is one of them.
- The Gardaí are on the threshold of acquiring a new Radio Network with tests currently being carried out by the Gardaí on the new system. This is a key development for the Force and will provide a secure, state of the art, nationwide digital radio services covering all areas both rural and urban for An Garda Síochána and other emergency services.
An Garda Síochána cannot tackle crime and anti-social behaviour on their own. They need and rely on the good will of law abiding citizens. Community Alert and other Schemes provide the ordinary people with a practical opportunity to assist the Gardaí in their work. I am gratified to learn that there are very active and successful Community Alert, Neighbourhood Watch and Coastal Watch Schemes in Oranmore. This is the type of active public support the Gardaí need to do their job. I compliment the people of Oranmore and the surrounding areas for their civic spirit, which in today’s society where people can sometimes feel isolated, is invaluable.
In conclusion, I want to thank each one of you for joining me on this occasion. I wish each member of the Station party well in the future.
Go raibh maith agaibh go léir.