A CALL to see the police presence in South Armagh scaled back has been branded as a nonsense by an Ulster Unionist Councillor.
Ulster Unionist David Taylor hit out following a public meeting in which the future of Newtownhamilton Police Station was discussed as part of a review of policing in the area, with suggestions it could be turned into a car park.
Commenting on that meeting Sinn Fein Councillor Barra O’Muiri, a Newtown native, said, “The amount of money it costs to keep the police stations open in Cross and Newtown, if they were closed and the money used to keep them open stopped and spent on more police on the ground driving about, working shifts, it would be far better value for money for the people, rate payers,”
He added, “We do need police policing the area, nobody is disputing that but we don’t need a big, fortified police station.”
Cllr Taylor, reacting to the comments, said, “The Station in Newtownhamilton is a key component of the policing service in the local area and whilst there is an acknowledgement that the station should be refurbished and modernised, the suggestion by Councillor O’Muiri that there should eventually be no physical policing structure in the South Armagh area is complete nonsense and irresponsible to say the least.
“I had many concerns surrounding the report published into the review of policing in South Armagh though contained within it was confirmation that there should be a Police Station located in the area. The PSNI must remain committed to having a physical structure in South Armagh and not bow to what appears to be obvious political pressure from republican representatives to deviate from this obligation.
“There are major problems with organised crime in the South Armagh area which cannot be ignored and the public must be assured that police are able to deliver an effective service on the ground. It is also vital that the safety and operational ability of police officers serving in South Armagh is not compromised.
“It is wrong and disingenuous to suggest that the community don’t want a station in the area, the feedback I receive is quite the opposite. People feel reassured by having a station presence. There is no doubt that the local community wants more police officers on the ground, that does not however, have to be at the expense of a station presence.
“I want to see station facilities at Newtownhamilton that improve the quality of experience for the general public and indeed the officers serving in the station as does many of the local community. It would also be positive if any improvement works assisted with the overall development of the village. This should be the principle focus of everybody rather than some trying to pursue certain political agendas.”