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[euro]19m profit is mastonishing; Garda stations used by phone firms but cash isn't going to our police force; EXCLUSIVE.

Byline: FERGHAL BLANEY Political Reporter

PROFITS have literally gone through the roof as phone masts on Garda stations have raked in [euro]19million in the past five years.

And a Social Democrat TD wants to know why the Department of Finance is getting this money when it could be used to bolster vital policing services.

Figures obtained by the Irish Daily Mirror from Catherine Murphy reveals the true extent of the bonanza being enjoyed by the Office of Public Works for allowing the phone companies to install their receiver masts on Garda station roofs.

Stations mobile phone installed on For the years from 2012 to 2016 a total of just over [euro]19million was collected by the OPW from firms through lease fees on 179 stations, r y h s, according to the information supplied by the OPW to Ms Murphy by way of Parliamentary Question.

Of the 42 stations that have been sold since the gardai controversially shuttered 139 of them just over fourand-a-half years ago, none of them had masts on them.

This indicates the OPW has lost no money from phone mast leases over Garda station sales, nor will they going forward if no more are sold.

One of the biggest fees in the country was the [euro]400,000 paid for masts stationed on the roof of Stepaside Garda station in Transport Minister Shane Ross' Dublin Rathdown constituency.

It has been controversially closed since early 2013, but will be reopened shortly ahead of any other in what many have described as "stroke politics" on the part of the minister. The OPW is going into collected [euro]124,000 in 2013 from the phone companies for Stepaside, [euro]89,000 was coined last year, [euro]69,000 in 2014, [euro]60,000 in 2015 and [euro]48,000 in 2012.

It has also emerged 2013 was the best year overall for the OPW's phone mast windfall when it collected [euro]4.9million.

Ms Murphy said Garda stations make attractive locations for phone masts for two main reasons, firstly because the masts are exempt from planning permission on Garda stations roofs, and secondly because stations are often in prime central locations.

But she added she had serious concerns the money being raised is going into the general funds of the Department of Finance through the OPW, which is part of the department structure, instead of into making our streets safer when funding policing po properly is so important once again.

Ms Murphy said: "These are sizable amounts of money because stations are very often centrally located in cities, towns and villages, so they're actually getting a mast in places where you wouldn't normally get a mast, there would be an objection to it.

"The money goes straight into the OPW's coffers, so that's the Department of Finance, it's not going to the gardai, it looks like it's going straight to the OPW because I asked the question of the department."

A spokesman for the OPW was unable to comment at the time of going to print on where the monies collected from the mast lease fees actually goes, and why it is not redirected back into much-needed policing services.

news@irishmirror.ie

station Shane "of to over by sta Sh co cw r y h s, 179 Stations have had mobile phone masts installed on them The money is going into the OPW's coffers, not to gardai CATHERINE MURPHY SOCIAL DEMOCRATS

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SIGNAL BOOST Stepaside Garda station in South Dublin
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 7, 2017
Words:583
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