Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has said more garda stations are to be closed in addition to almost 30 that were shut down last weekend.

Mr Shatter told the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors’ annual conference that the country no longer needed 700 garda stations.

He said that Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan was in the process of identifying the stations to be closed.

The decision has been strongly criticised by AGSI, which said it will further damage the ability of the gardaí to police the country.

Mr Shatter insisted that policing was not about buildings and that this move would get more gardaí out from behind desks and on the beat.

But the AGSI said the policy represents a serious erosion of the community policing model and will undermine the tradition of the community knowing their garda and the garda knowing the community.

The minister said he could not yet say how many more stations would be closed.

The AGSI has also called for the establishment of an Independent Police Authority to run the force.

The association said the Government has too much control over the force since the implementation of the 2005 Garda Síochána Act.

The AGSI said the Government decides how much money the force has to tackle crime, what stations remain open and what individuals are promoted to the senior ranks.

Association General Secretary Joe Dirwan said this has to change and an independent police authority must be established.

He said the Commissioner would still be responsible for the policing plan, but the authority would approve it as well as allocating budgets and appointing senior officers.

The Department of Justice said it has no plans to introduce an independent policing authority.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said he has never experienced political interference in the course of his leadership of the force.

Mr Callinan said while he was accountable to the Minister for Justice, he did not believe politicians had too much control over the force.