Monday 24 November 2014

Shatter took gardai on visit to Mexico despite no threat

Tom Brady, Security Editor

Published 07/04/2014 | 02:30

Justice Minister Alan Shatter. Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Justice Minister Alan Shatter. Photo: Frank McGrath

JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter was accompanied by his two garda drivers during his trip last month to Mexico – even though gardai were not aware of any threat to him.

He opted to bring the drivers with him, as personal protection officers, because he was concerned for his safety.

The move surprised both the gardai and the Department of Foreign Affairs, as they were not aware of any specific threat.

However, Mr Shatter insisted that the two armed gardai should be in the party, which also included his wife, Carol, and his private secretary.

Mrs Shatter travelled at her own expense on the five-day trip, which was the first St Patrick's Day ministerial trip to Mexico as part of the Promote Ireland programme.

However, the State paid for the two garda drivers, who flew with Mr Shatter on a Delta Airlines flight from Dublin to Atlanta and from there by Aeromexico airlines to Mexico city.

One of the gardai was due to have been on leave that week and he was owed overtime payments as well as some subsistence payments for being on duty.

The additional cost of bringing the drivers is reckoned to have amounted to a substantial four-figure sum.

Most government ministers are not usually accompanied by an armed garda on an overseas trip unless there is a reason for special protection measures.

If armed officers are being provided, they are normally drawn from the force's Emergency Response Unit, who are trained in close-in protection.

However, Mr Shatter is understood to have stated that he wanted his two regular drivers with him. Diplomatic channels were used to clear the way for the drivers to bring their guns with them.

ASSESSMENT

In response to queries from the Irish Independent, the Department of Justice said security arrangements for the visit were entirely a matter for An Garda Siochana, based on their risk assessment.

It had never been the practice, the department said, to comment on detailed security arrangements for ministers, for obvious reasons.

It declined to answer a query on whether the minister had been advised of the existence of a possible threat from any source, such as the Garda authorities, the Department of Foreign Affairs or the Irish Embassy in Mexico. The department would also not comment on whether any evidence emerged during the visit to shed any light on the possibility of a threat against Mr Shatter.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said that, as with all ministerial trips abroad, the Irish Embassy in Mexico was in ongoing contact with the relevant departments and authorities on logistical arrangements, including security.

Irish Independent

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