Council Affairs: Closely Gard-ing votes in Castletroy

Limerick County Council Offices in Dooradoyle.

A CASTLETROY Garda station won’t be happening anytime soon. But for many local politicians – good, bad, or indifferent – they seem to have the impression that, if they keep making noise about it, their seats will be safe come next June’s Local Elections.

I have to admit, I often wonder if I am attending the same local authority meetings as some of our over-eager council members.

It was only weeks ago that the “Willie O’Dea wing” of Fianna Fáil in the council, as they were recently referred to, called a special meeting with members of the Gardaí to deal with anti-social behaviour in Castletroy.

One of O’Dea’s top troopers, Cllr Joe Pond, made it clear that he has repeatedly called for the provision of a 24/7 Garda station to cover the Castletroy, Monaleen, and Annacotty area.

“We have an issue of anti-social behaviour in an area with a population of 25,000. That’s a huge amount of people,” Cllr Pond told those in attendance at last month’s special meeting in County Hall.

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Now, this lot can lose the run of themselves pretty fast when there’s a sniff of a ballot box in the air. And, on top of that, I don’t think their hearing is great. Or maybe it is just their ability to listen, I’m not sure.

But at the very same meeting, Superintendent Andrew Lacey of Roxboro Road Garda Station made it very clear that a new Garda station wasn’t the answer.

“Having a Garda station is one thing, but having Gardaí to be in that Garda station is another thing. I am responsible for that side of the city and if I have a Garda station there then I need to be able to staff it and I need to put Gardaí in to operate it,” Supt Lacey explained.

More guards, not more buildings, was his take on the matter.

But why listen to the man whose literal job it is to know about these things when you can make another hole in the ozone layer by repeating the same old guff ad nauseam?

I suppose when you are in full on electioneering mode it is hard to hear anything but the sound of your own voice.

And boy, oh boy, have they been harping on about their Garda station ever since – regardless to what they were told by the Po-Po.

They were in fine old fettle altogether at the last Metropolitan District meeting, and singing the same auld tune. It was like having a ringside seat at The Muppet Show for the most part.

If councillors are depending on a Castletroy Garda Station to get them re-elected in a local or general election, they are in real trouble.

Listen folks, let’s be real, you won’t be seeing a Garda station in Castletroy between now and next June, no matter what ministerial visits and photo opportunities are grabbed. In fact, when Local Elections 2029 come around, my bet is they will still be dangling this carrot in front of our noses.

At this month’s Metropolitan meeting, councillors were blowing their own trumpets aplenty on the matter with two motions before the chamber calling for the provision of the new Garda station in Castletroy.

Labour councillor Elena Secas and Fianna Fáil councillor Joe Pond both had proposals on the agenda calling for the local authority to write to the Office of Public Works (OPW) to request that they identify a site for a new station as a priority in Castletroy.

Top Lieutenant in the Willie O’Dea wing of Fianna Fáil, Cllr Catherine Slattery, commended all involved with getting the much-needed Castletroy Garda Station included in the latest Garda Capital Plan — especially her colleague Cllr Joe Pond. Big surprise there. Without his petition, Cllr Slattery insisted, none of this would have gotten next nor near over the line. Number one votes all round please.

“He walked the length and breadth of Castletroy, Monaleen, Annacotty, and knocked on doors until he got signatures to get the Garda station. It shows exceptional dedication to his area and I am sure that with the OPW locating a premises for the Garda station, Joe will work as hard as he did with the petition,” Cllr Slattery shamelessly enthused.

As Elton John might have written, if he were from Monaleen Heights, ‘can you feel the Fianna Fáil love in tonight?’.

But Quiet Man of the Metropolitan District, Fine Gael’s Cllr Michael Murphy, could see through their little ruse, taking the wind out of their sails by pointing out that Castleconnell already has a garda station.

“We have had a Garda station for as long as I am alive. We have currently seven Gardaí working out of Castleconnell and they are crying out for an improvement of their facilities,” Cllr Murphy insisted.

“They cover Castletroy and Monaleen, so they are the Garda station at the moment for Castletroy and Monaleen. I would, once again, on behalf of the Garda station in Castleconnell, ask that they get upgraded facilities.”

A new Castletroy Garda station, he told the chamber, sounds lovely coming up to an election but won’t necessarily happen anytime soon, adding that “we could still be talking about it here in five years’ time”.

Two days later, a press release and photo came in to the Limerick Post from the Kieran O’Donnell arm of Fine Gael.

“Limerick Fine Gael public representatives meet with Justice Minister to progress new Garda station in Castletroy”, the tantalising headline read.

And lo and behold, another blatant exercise in campaigning for Local Elections 2024. But stall on, it gets better.

In the attached photo, the very same blue shirts having a pop at Fianna Fáil in the council chamber last week (yes, Cllr Michael Murphy among them) were photographed with Justice Minister Helen McEntee, Limerick Minister of State Kieran O’Donnell, and a gaggle of Fine Gael likely lads using the very same bargaining chip.

You really couldn’t feckin’ make it up.