Garda Band hit taxpayer for €1.8m - but its prison service counterpart cost just €2,500
The musical band attached to An Garda Síochána cost taxpayers more than €1.8m last year.
The troupe of 29 full-time musicians have garda ranks such as sergeant and inspector, but are not involved in policing duties. They were paid an average of €60,000 each last year, and racked up travel and subsistence expenses of nearly €52,000.
The spend last year compared to €1,833,594 in 2015 and €1,869,806 in 2016. The spending is likely to come under increased scrutiny after it emerged that the band's counterpart representing the Irish Prison Service (IPS) cost just €2,500 to run this year.
IPS Pipe Band members are serving and retired front-line prison staff, who participate in musical activities on a voluntary basis during their time off.
The group only received €2,500 of taxpayers' money this year towards the cost of new drums. A uniform is also provided by the prison service.
It performs at IPS events such as official openings and other external engagements.
Similarly, the Garda Band provides music for official functions, as well as events such as the Rose of Tralee Festival, the National Ploughing Championships, and the Dublin St Patrick's Day parade.
In addition to salaries and travel expenses, €11,726 was also spent on communications and other equipment last year, while training, development and incidental expenses amounted to €5,540.
The Garda Band was established shortly after the foundation of An Garda Síochána in 1922. It was disbanded in 1965 and its 35 members were told to report for ordinary policing duties.
The band was re-established in 1972, however, to mark the 50th anniversary of An Garda Síochána, and has remained a part of the force ever since.
The Garda press office did not respond to a request for comment.
A spokesperson for the IPS confirmed that its pipe band is "mainly self-funding" and that transport, flights, accommodation and other costs outside of the provision of a uniform are "met from their own funds".