By Cormac McQuinn Sunday Independent June 9 2019
Shane Ross has defended the “hounding” of his ministerial colleague Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran over the timetable for reopening the garda station in Stepaside.
It comes after the emergence of text messages showing how Mr Ross’s adviser sought updates from Mr Moran’s staff on the controversial €1.5m project.
Mr Ross campaigned for the reopening of Stepaside, which is in his Dublin-Rathdown, constituency and has faced Opposition criticism over the issue.
Communications released to the Sunday Independent by the Office of Public Works (OPW) – which is overseeing the project – shows how keen he was for updates on the project.
In one text message to OPW minister Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran’s private secretary in January, Mr Ross’s adviser apologised for “pestering” him but added: “Shane is under serious pressure – he’s been promising local people an update since early December.”
She sought information “before close of business” and also said “sorry for hounding you”.
An update was provided to Mr Ross later that month when Mr Moran, a fellow Independent Alliance minister, wrote that the main works are expected to be completed by the end of June.
Mr Ross posted the update on Facebook that day.
His adviser was back on to Mr Moran’s staff by text on April 9. She wrote: “Shane has been talking to Boxer about the need for a timeline/opening date/finishing date for the works at Stepaside… any chance you could chase it at your end?”
In May, Mr Ross posted a picture of himself and his ally, then councillor Kevin Daly, outside Stepaside garda station on Facebook the week before the local elections. He wrote: “Cllr Kevin Daly ‘delivering’ Stepaside garda station back to the community… builders inside are preparing for the autumn reopening.” Mr Daly was not re-elected.
Last night Mr Ross defended his efforts to get updates on the project. He said that “as a passionate advocate for the station’s reopening, it was appropriate and expected that I should monitor its progress and its timetable by communicating with the OPW Minister regularly”. On the expected reopening later this year, he said: “Local people deserve no less,” and argued that “unacceptable crime rates plus a huge population increase in the area justify a return of a local garda presence”.
Stepaside is one of six garda stations due to be reopened as part of a pilot programme.
Documents released by the OPW show that the station at Donard, Co Wicklow, which is now back in use, cost €55,459 to reopen. A previous ‘ball-park’ cost of €1.5m was given for Stepaside and the OPW said the current estimate remains within that amount. It pointed out the size difference between Donard and Stepaside and garda requirements in explaining the difference in cost between the two projects.
The documents suggest works on the other stations – Rush, Co Dublin; Ballinspittle, Co Cork; Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow; and Bawnboy, Co Cavan – will be completed by the end of 2019.