The last week has been the first since the foundation of the State that the village of Grangemockler has had no garda station operating.
The doors were locked on the station on Tuesday afternoon of last week by Gda Tony Walsh marking a sad day for the community which has always had a garda station. The closure of the garda station in Grangemockler will save just €4,000 a year the Dail was told after gardai vacated the premises.
It was an emotional day for Gda Walsh who had spent the last four years serving Grangemockler and its wide catchment area. The village and the area will now be covered by patrol from Carrick on Suir.
“I was hoping to serve out the rest of my career here, I would have been very happy to do that,” said Gda Walsh who has been forced to transfer to Carrick on Suir as a result of the station closure, one of three South Tipperary stations to close along with Dundrum and New Inn.
“It was a privilege to serve among this community. They are marvellous people and I will always appreciate their hospitality, friendship and co-operation. All of the organisations that make up the community work very much in sync with one another which made my job easier. I leave with a heavy heart and I would like to think I can still contribute to their welfare and safety by looking out for them based in Carrick on Suir,” he said.
Gda. Walsh is the last member of An Garda Siochanna to be based in the village of Grangemockler, a village that greatly valued the garda presence which was reflected when the community reacted with shock when the closure announcement was made before Christmas.
On Tuesday of last week Gda Walsh turned the key on the station for the last time watched by Supt John Courtney, his predecessor in Grangemockler the retired Tom McCarthy, Sgt Ian Barrett and gardai from Carrick on Suir- Gda John English and Alan Burke, who removed items from the station before it was formally closed.
The station was built in the early sixties to replace the old station located in Glenbower which had four serving gardai.
“It was a difficult day. I became very attached to the people that live in the community over my four and a half years there. I enjoyed helping people and in particular calling out to the elderly, making regular calls to them was one of my priorities,” said Gda Walsh.
Gda Walsh said Grangemockler was a busy place and it had a very dangerous road running through the village.
“Locals are very concerned about the volume of traffic and in particular the speed of the traffic that goes through the village every day” said Gda Walsh who served in Lusk, County Dublin before spending twenty years in Carrick prior to him taking up the Grangemockler post.
“The last four years have been the happiest in the job for me. It was a lovely place to work,” he said.
That applies even when it came to keeping the peace on the occasions Tipperary played Kilkenny in All-Ireland finals which would inevitably lead to some tension in the village given its location on the county border.
“There is a great rivalry there. On those occasions it was good to have a presence but it never got out of hand” he said.
During his last few days Gda Walsh was inundated with callers and well wishers, expressing their thanks and their good wiishes for the future.
“Fr. Cunningham called and so did a lot of others. People were genuinely upset when the closure announcement was made. There was disbelief here in the village because whenever a garda retired they were immediately replaced. Now the station is closed for the first time since the foundation of the State and that has come as a big shock to the community,” he said.
In response to a parliamentary question submitted by Independent TD Mattie McGrath, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has confirmed that the annual financial saving of closing the Garda stations in New Inn, Dundrum and Grangemockler is estimated to be just €4,000 annually per station.
“This is outrageous. garda stations in rural areas give a sense of safety and well-being to the residents, especially elderly residents in these areas. In most cases the Garda has a personal relationship with the residents and they feel that the Garda is not too far away should they get into difficulty.” said Deputy McGrath
“There is more and more attacks on elderly people in rural areas and to think that this Government is happy to put the lives and safety of these elderly people at risk for such a tiny saving is beyond belief. Crimes on elderly people and families are happening as a direct result of the Government’s policies and the Government are aiding and abetting criminals by continuing to strip the rural areas of their garda stations”
“They are following a policy that is completely out of touch with reality. The presence of a garda in an area is far better than these so called patrol cars coming out from the town stations that they believe are going to happen. Patrols are simply not happening in the rural areas. I wonder when a garda was last seen driving through the back-roads and by-roads of Tipperary because it’s a long time since I’ve seen them patrol the area. They may drive through the villages once a day, if even, but what about where crime is really happening, in isolated areas, miles from any village.” continued deputy McGrath
“I am pleading with this Government to stop this madness. These savings are not worth putting the safety of the people at risk. This policy will lead to more and more crime on households and the Government will have to take responsibility for that. The Minister for Justice doesn’t know what it is like to live half an hour from the nearest town so he simply does not understand the fear that exists knowing that if you are broken into, you will have to fend for yourself, because the criminals will be long gone before those who are supposed to be protecting us arrive.” concluded Deputy McGrath.