One word. Disgraceful.

 

Supt. Leahy advises that if a Member is able to manage themselves and work efficiently in Clonmel Garda station - they will be able to do so anywhere.Garda Tom Finan, CEC Representative, Tipperary and Garda Liam, Divisional Representative, GRA, Clonmel. Three Ministers for Justice and two Garda Commissioners have seen the appalling state of Clonmel Garda Station, Garda Finan advises.Gardaí Denis O’Brien, Fiona Gleeson and Chris Kelly are typical of the Regular in Clonmel Garda Station - doing an unbelievable job, but unfortunately, in equally unbelievable circumstancesAn upstairs fire exit which is only accessible through a working toilet. Seriously?The farcical prisoners’ recreation/smoking ‘area’ is a health hazard for prisoners and Gardaí alike.

Despite meeting an exceptionally enthusiastic and professional group of gardaí in Clonmel Station, Editor John O’Keeffe, was truly appalled at the conditions they are expected to work in

TIhave visited numerous stations up and down the country, and it is true Sligo and Macroom Garda Stations (to name but two) have not been without their significant woes; certain stations in our cities too, could benefit from a lick of paint and still others need more TLC. Clonmel Garda Station, however, was like stepping back in time – to the Neolithic age. There is no civil or public servant in any part of this country who would be expected or -indeed- who would work in such an environment. Period. Yet, we still expect the men and women of the Frontline to provide a cutting-edge policing service to the people of Clonmel and its environs in this structure – a work environment that may be kindly described as jaw-dropping.

An upstairs fire exit which is only accessible through a working toilet. Seriously?

From the moment you walk in, you know there is something seriously awry. The public office (which apparently has recently had a ‘renovation light’) felt like walking into a Portakabin on a building site. The tiny prisoners’ recreation/smoking area looks like something out of a Gulag. Upstairs, to access one fire exit, you would have to go through a working toilet. Every part of the station is crying out for, at the very least, serious renovation; if not gutting. Each and every room, corridor and corner of this sick building, brings architectural and structural misery to those unfortunate enough to have to work there.

And on this point, there appears little dispute between the man in the white shirt and his Frontline on the street. Superintendent Willie Leahy tells it as it is. “It has been well documented that Clonmel requires a new station; not just for the staff working within but also for the community and public that we serve. Whilst an amount of work has been carried out in the last number of years…the reality is that we require a purpose-built modern station in Clonmel. The current location and the site of the proposed new build are [however] excellent,” he says.

Garda Tom Finan, Central Executive Committee Representative for Tipperary does not however mince his words. “Clonmel station is antiquated and in a deplorable condition for a 21st century Garda station, which polices more than 19,500 people in the urban confines of Clonmel town, with a further rural population of another 10.000. We in the GRA, have been trying for years to improve the station and many a Minister for Justice and Garda Commissioner has seen first-hand the problems that exist in Clonmel station. Over three years ago, announcements for a new station were made. Nothing has happened,” he says.
And the deplorable state of the station cannot be underestimated. Members advised me that they were embarrassed bringing in members of the public who may simply be getting passport forms signed, or reporting a crime. One even told me that a prisoner recently said to him that he thought the building “was a right laugh.” With respect to offenders, when prisoners are amazed at the conditions you work in, you know you have a problem.

The farcical prisoners’ recreation/smoking ‘area’ is a health hazard for prisoners and Gardaí alike.

Gardaí remain a resilient bunch – none more so than the exceptionally professional group I met in Clonmel. The Regular, Detectives, Sergeants, Officers and non-Garda staff, carry on as best they can in an environment which is simply not fit for purpose. The work they still undertake from such a ramshackle base, remains exceptional.

On the day I was there and patrolled with Gardaí Denis O’Brien, Fiona Gleeson and Chris Kelly, we came across a minor traffic accident. Both parties were not physically injured but in a state of shock. The sensitivity and warmth with which these people were handled in this most difficult of circumstances was extraordinary. Sound advice, followed by metaphorical and literal hugs all round. And guess what? These kindnesses won’t be written in any performance appraisal or recorded in any document should promotion be sought. Nor will the daily resourcing issues that befall gardaí here be mentioned. But the people of Clonmel know what these gardaí and their colleagues do, and this is why up and down the country, over 80% of the public continue to have trust and confidence in their local police.

As Supt. Leahy says, “Whilst we wish for, need and seek more resources in the District, the staff in Clonmel District provide an excellent service to the community. If a member is able to manage themselves and work efficiently in Clonmel, then they will be able to do so anywhere.”

Yet despite the stoicism from every rank in Clonmel, some person or persons, somewhere, still seems to think it’s okay to warehouse them in a building that is not fit for human habitation. Please, in 2020, will that person or persons in authority say thus far and no further, and once and for all give the people of Clonmel and as importantly its gardaí, the station they all truly deserve?


For full and in-depth coverage, see the current printed edition of Garda Review.

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