Fears indebted prison staff and gardai 'at risk of bribery'
MORTGAGE debt activist David Hall has called on Justice Minister Alan Shatter to take steps to ensure that gardai and prison officers who are struggling financially do not become a target for criminals.
Mr Hall, who is chief executive of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation, fears that they could be singled out if it became known they were in debt and he wants their names kept off an insolvency register.
He said no garda or prison officer should get special treatment but where personal safety or state security was at stake, there was a need for thinking "outside the box".
Mr Hall said a large number of gardai and prison officers had contacted his organisation and it was evident that many were in serious trouble.
"They are in debt in a job that has not shown any consideration or sympathy to those in debt, except for a few opportune soundbites from the minister.
"Many of those people are living in fear on a daily basis – not from criminals but from banks and creditors and the effect that this could have on their livelihood.
"This is having a profound impact on their ability to perform their jobs.
"Some are in exceptionally sensitive roles, in which we all rely on them being sharp and functioning to the best of their ability," he added.
Mr Hall warned that gardai and prison officers who were under financial pressure could fall foul of temptation or be placed at risk if that information became available.
He said they must be protected from any exposure that could leave them open to being bribed.
"This does not serve any purpose and, remarkably, has not been addressed by the minister", he added.
He said some of the gardai were also very concerned by the lack of clarity surrounding their position under the disciplinary code, because they were in financial difficulty.
Mr Hall said he had written to Mr Shatter, asking what protection existed for gardai, or what was likely to happen to them, and Mr Shatter's reply had provided neither clarity nor comfort.
He added: "What happens if a judgment is registered against them or if they are declared to be bankrupt?
"There is no clarity on this very important matter."