Shatter hits out at 'scandalous' Shell-to-Sea cost
JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter has described a €14.5m bill for providing extra resources to police a six-year long protest as an absolute scandal.
He called on demonstrators at the Shell pipeline in north Mayo to end their action, saying it did not have the support of the vast majority of people.
Mr Shatter said yesterday the resources could be better spent on other policing duties and it was time to allow the project to continue unhindered.
He believed that the Shell-to-Sea protest could also act as a disincentive to other international companies to set up business here. Mr Shatter had earlier accused some of the demonstrators of engaging in "protest tourism".
And said it was scandalous they had behaved in a self-indulgent way at a time when many people in the country were under severe financial pressure.
The level of garda resources was regrettable but was absolutely necessary because of the protests, he added.
He said he had been advised by the authorities that they were not in a position to provide projected costs for future policing at the oil refinery.
In figures supplied to Sinn Fein TD Peadar Toibin, the minister revealed that more than €9m had been paid out in garda overtime and allowances alone with another €5m spent on travel, subsistence and other expenses. The State had also paid almost €500,000 in extra employers' PRSI, while the cost of the basic garda salaries was not included in the figures, Mr Shatter said.
It was "deeply regrettable", he added, that so many garda resources had been tied up policing the protest.
He made the comments at the presentation of the "Q" mark for quality management systems to the Garda Siochana.
Mr Shatter said that for an organisation as large and complex as the Garda, which managed such a diverse range of administrative and operational demands, it was a truly impressive achievement and a recognition of the force's commitment to innovation, continuing change and modern policing strategies.
Asked about filling more of the gaps in the senior ranks of the force in the wake of a spate of early retirements, he said the Government would examine the position at the end of the month when the numbers leaving were finalised.
But he pointed out that the overall strength of the force at the moment was similar to the numbers that existed at the end of 2007.