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Thursday 22 August 2019

Garda watchdog's legal bill increases five-fold

The rise in the legal spend came amid three different inquiries: the Fennelly Commission, the O’Higgins Commission and the Clark Inquiry. Stock Image
The rise in the legal spend came amid three different inquiries: the Fennelly Commission, the O’Higgins Commission and the Clark Inquiry. Stock Image

Gordon Deegan

Costs associated with three separate inquiries sent An Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission's legal bill spiralling over €750,000 last year.

Four members of staff at GSOC last year also earned more than €100,000.

The €750,435 that GSOC spent on legal fees last year is more than five times the €142,112 the watchdog spent in 2013.

The rise in the legal spend came amid three different inquiries: the Fennelly Commission, the O'Higgins Commission and the Clark Inquiry.

"The additional costs associated with these matters were unavoidable and unanticipated when estimating annual expenditure for 2015," according to GSOC's annual report.

"These ongoing engagements require GSOC to obtain ongoing legal advice and to facilitate the attendance of witnesses at the commissions/inquiry," the report stated.

However, GSOC was expecting its legal bill to be much higher in 2015 and had set aside an additional €563,849 to deal with legal issues.

Tender

The underspend coincided with GSOC not proceeding last year with an investigation into allegations of wrongful cancellation of Fixed Charge Notices.

GSOC was allocated an additional €1m to undertake the investigation.

However, a tender competition for Investigation Support Services was not successful and no contract was awarded.

GSOC's financial statements for last year show that it recorded a modest deficit of €2,315 as a result of €223,202 being transferred from its capital account.

The figures show that GSOC's two commissioners, Carmel Foley and Kieran Fitzgerald, received total pay of €141,257 and €134,410 in 2015 respectively.

Its IT expenses jumped by more than €160,000, going from €437,104 to €605,869.

Irish Independent

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