Crime rates in Stepaside dropped “significantly” in the period leading up to a Cabinet decision to reopen the local Garda station, the Irish Independent can reveal.

A review of 78 towns nationwide by Garda management singled out the station in Transport Minister Shane Ross’s constituency on the grounds of population growth.

The controversial report, seen by and since published by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, recommends that stations in Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow, and Donard, Co Wicklow, also be reopened – but not until a further analysis of crime trends was completed.

At the same time, the review cautions against “placing too much reliance on crime statistics as an indicator of where best to locate a Garda station”.

It can also now be revealed:

Two stations in Donegal and one in Cork that “should be considered for reopening” cannot be because they have been disposed of by the OPW;

The station in Leighlinbridge was selected for reopening because its proximity to the M9 makes the area “vulnerable to mobile criminals”;

And gardaí believe there is an argument to be made for locating new stations on college campuses.

Mr Ross has denied the prioritisation of Stepaside in south Dublin was a case of “stroke politics”.

The interim report was delivered to the Department of Justice on June 8 and a decision was taken on Stepaside at Enda Kenny’s last Cabinet meeting as Taoiseach days later.

The Garda Síochána Analysis Service used two key criteria for identifying stations to be considered for reopening: population change by electoral division, and property crimes within relevant station boundaries.

The terms of reference drawn up by Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald last year said six stations should be identified for reopening in a pilot project, with at least one to be in Dublin.

Only four stations were closed in the capital during the recession which, according to the report, “facilitated ease of decision-making”.

Stepaside was up against Kill O’The Grange, Dalkey and Rush.

Population growth in Stepaside between 2011 and 2016 ran at between 12pc and 20pc, far ahead of the other areas.

Gardaí found there was a rise in property crime in 2014 and 2015 before a reduction in 2016.

“However, the number of such crimes reported in respect of the area once served by the Garda station at Stepaside has reduced significantly in the first quarter of 2017 when compared to the same period in 2016,” the report says.

Nonetheless, a “firm recommendation” was made that Stepaside be included in the pilot scheme, adding that in the event a second Dublin station was reopened it should be Rush.

The review states reopening Stepaside “would give rise to enhanced public confidence in the area which it would serve”.

In relation to Leighlinbridge, the report said the town “is accessible by way of the M9 motorway, rendering it vulnerable to mobile criminals”.

However, in advance of a “likely” decision to reopen it, gardaí wanted more time “to complete additional research regarding crime trends”.

Garda management indicated they would include Donard, Co Wicklow, in their final report but need to review more statistics.

No specific reason was given for why Donard was chosen.

The report suggests the Garda stations in Glen Cholm Cille and Min an Lábáin, Co Donegal, and Meelin, Co Cork, which was closed in 2013, should be considered for reopening – but they are no longer in State ownership.

The review, signed by Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll, goes outside its remit to highlight a need for Garda stations at Dublin Airport and Dublin Port due to the “growth of movement of people and goods”. And it adds: “Campuses where third-level institutions are located have been identified as locations [which], due to the significant numbers of people who gather there at particular times, should be considered, when [deciding] where An Garda Síochána should have access to a premises when they can locate personnel.”

This morning Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan released the report.

In a statement the minister said: “While in the normal course it would be appropriate and usual to wait for the final report before publication, in the light of misleading public comment and baseless assertions, which continue to be made, I have concluded that it would now be in the public interest to make this interim report available.

“I am of the view that the public interest is best served by the immediate publication of the report.”

The 2nd Interim Report on Proposal to reopen six Garda Station SAYS:

Stepaside, Dublin

A “firm recommendation” is made that Stepaside garda station should be reopened on the grounds of population growth.

Leighlinbridge, Carlow

The town “is accessible by way of the M9 motorway, rendering it vulnerable to mobile criminals”.

Donard, Wicklow

It is “likely that a recommendation will be made that Donard be included in the stations that will be reopened” but more research is needed.

Rush, Dublin

In the event a second Dublin station is to be reopened Rush “should be considered”.

Dublin Airport

A facility should be ready by the end of 2017 to ensure appropriate policing and cater for the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

Dublin Port

Requirements placed on Gardaí to provide both policing and immigration services are “growing considerably”.

Fitzgibbon Street, Dublin

Will be reopened “as soon as possible” as part of the Government’s response to crime in the north inner city.

Meelin, Cork

“Appropriate for consideration for reopening, however that premises has been sold by the OPW.”

Gleann Chom Cille and Mín an Lábáin, Donegal

“The only two stations that should be considered for reopening [in the Northern Region], unfortunately both premises have been subject of disposal by the OPW.”

Crime rate was falling in Stepaside before decision to reopen Garda station