By Ronan Dodd
The closure of the Garda Training College in Templemore this week has been descibed by the town’s Mayor as “an awful blow”.
The college, which has been in the town since 1964, will hold its last graduation parade this Thursday, with 126 gardai passing out. It is not expected to have another intake of recruits for two years.
Reacting to the closure, Mayor Joe Bourke said that it was a “terror that the facility was to be left lying idle”.
The outgoing Mayor said that a lot of businesses in the town would have been dependent on the college, and that houses had been bought in the area to house students at the facility.
“When the pressure was put on former Minister for Justice Michael McDowell some years back to turn out more gardai, he spent E5m on buying a place at Clonmore for firearms training. But that is lying idle too,” he said.
Cllr Bourke said that the closure would mean losses of “millions of euro” to the local economy.
He warned that the fallout from the closure would be seen in the future , with some towns being left without a garda because of a two-year gap that will develop between this week’s closure and the next proposed intake of recruits.
“The only thing that thrives in a recession is crime, and to be reducing the police force is going against the trend,” he said.
Mayor Bourke said that the Town Council was hoping to see recruitment start straightaway and that training would recommence.
“If we don’t have something at the college we will lose the tutors and trainers, who will be transferred elesewhere. There is talk of refresher courses being held in the college, but I think that is to try and keep us happy and to soften the blow,” he said.
He said that “with a bit of luck we’ll bump into Alan Shatter at this Thursday’s graduation and persuade him to keep it open”.
Paul Walsh, secretary of Templemore Traders’ Association, said that the college had been “the lifeblood of the town”.
“This is a scary time, especially when there is no commitment to replace it. I suppose we will just have to weather the storm and remain positive. You could get negative, especially with three businesses having closed in the town since the new year. Not having the college will not help trying to attract investment in to Templemore,” he said.
However, Mr Walsh said that the college had diversified into other courses over the past while, and had set up a sports academy, which was “bringing a buzz around the town”.