THE job of garda ministerial driver is so well paid they earn almost as much as a superintendent, a court was told yesterday.
It is a prestigious and much sought-after post, a sergeant in the garda transport pool told the High Court. He was giving evidence in a case brought by a former escort driver over his alleged demotion.
Liam Farrell (51) claims he was transferred out of the transport section over what he said was a false allegation by his wife that he put his official revolver to his mouth during a dispute with her 12 years ago.
Garda Farrell, who had been driver for the late Seamus Brennan while he was Fianna Fail chief whip, wants the court to restore him to his position, or an alternative similar position, along with payments and pension entitlements he enjoyed as a ministerial driver.
He claims as a result of being transferred out of the driving pool he lost €60,000 in pay and he will lose another €118,000 in the future, inclusive of pension and gratuity payments.
The Garda Commissioner and the State, against whom the case is taken, have denied his claims and said he was never assigned as a permanent ministerial driver. They also deny his career has been ruined or that he has suffered financial loss.
Gda Farrell said he was punished unfairly through a flawed investigation into the gun allegation, which he denies.
On the day of the alleged incident, when it is claimed his wife reported the matter to her local station, he voluntarily handed over the gun to two officers who called to his house.
As a result of an investigation into the matter, he said he was sent to work on protective duty at the Central Bank mint in Sandyford in what he believes was a decision to ostracise him.
Yesterday, on the second day of the case, Sgt Jim Doddy, of the garda transport section, told the court a job as a ministerial driver is much sought after. On top of their basic pay, drivers are given initially 33pc extra in lieu of overtime, later increased to 40pc, Sgt Doddy said.
Asked if this was the same level of pay as a garda superintendent, he said it would not be far off it.
Sgt Doddy said Gda Farrell had a very good record and performed all duties required of him until he was transferred out of the transport section following the alleged gun incident.
Frank Gunne, now retired but who worked in the garda welfare office, said he visited Gda Farrell at his Central Bank post in around 2000 and found him to be very upset and distressed about having been sent there because he said he was innocent of any wrongdoing.
The hearing continues.