Anger as gardai spend €1,000 a day to 'babysit' raised bogs
GARDAI are spending €1,000 a day on overtime to "babysit" two bogs 24 hours a day and prevent illegal turf cutting.
An estimated €32,000 has been spent by the Garda at Clonmoylan and Barroughter bogs in South East Galway. Both have been subject to a round-the-clock garda presence since July 5.
Local residents, councillors and turf-cutters say that at least four gardai are constantly on patrol ensuring that raised bogs are not being cut.
The cost of stationing four gardai permanently at the bogs, which are just a mile apart, over the past 32 days would be at least €32,800 in overtime.
This works out at €1,026.74 per day to patrol Clonmoylan and Barroughter bogs, which are 1,000 and 430 acres in size respectively.
When asked by the Irish Independent about the number of personnel deployed in the area on a 24-hour basis, a garda spokesperson in Galway said that they did not "discuss the details of ongoing security operations".
The spokesperson would also not confirm how long the patrol was likely to continue.
However, locals have said that there are "at least" four gardai on patrol every hour of the day.
Many locals say they have witnessed a far higher level of garda presence over the past month.
Fine Gael councillor Jimmy McClearn noted eight garda vehicles on the first Saturday of the 24-hour patrol.
Mr McClearn, who lives locally, believes that gardai are employing the wrong tactic by "babysitting" the area.
"People really can't get their head around the extraordinary lengths they are going to here.
"We are especially angered that so many resources are concentrated on stopping people from cutting turf but when robberies and break-ins are reported, they say they haven't the man-power," he said.
Spokesperson for the Barroughter and Clonmoylan Bogs Action Group Dermot Moran also questioned the need for the constant patrolling of the area.
Under the terms of the EU Habitats Directive, a number of raised bogs have been declared Special Areas of Conservation and a turf-cutting ban on these bogs was introduced in 2011.
Compensation is available to those who abide by the law.
Thirteen of the bogs in question are located in Co Galway.
Monivea bog in Co Galway, which was the scene of a stand-off between gardai and turf-cutters earlier in the month, had also been subject to 24-hour patrol but that ended two weeks ago.
The overtime figures were calculated using the Garda's own overtime pay scale for four Class A gardai with just one year of experience.
Overtime is paid to gardai at a rate of time-plus-one-sixth per hour, between 6pm and 8pm Monday to Saturday.
It is paid at a rate of time-plus-one-quarter between8pm and 8am Monday to Saturday.
There is a shift allowance of €15.54 for Saturday work and Sunday pay for rostered work is calculated at a fifth of a garda's weekly wage.