Thursday 18 January 2018

Gardai pocketed €3,500 each for overtime during VIP visits

Gardai police the visit of Queen Elizabeth in Dublin last year.
Gardai police the visit of Queen Elizabeth in Dublin last year.

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

RANK-and-file gardai enjoyed a €3,500 boost to their pay on average from the visits of Queen Elizabeth and US President Barack Obama last year.

But garda management never formally told the Government that the cost of policing the visits was going to soar from €20m to €36m. And the vast majority of the overspend went on garda overtime.

The overtime bill for the 8,000 gardai -- drawn from all over the country -- shot up from an estimated €8m to €23.85m.

When coupled with the €1.6m paid to the gardai in "unsocial allowances" during the visit and €2.9m in mileage and food expenses, it resulted in the gardai concerned getting a boost of €3,553 on average on top of their standard wages.

Despite the overwhelming success of the visits, the row between the Government and An Garda Siochana about the cost of policing continued from July until December last year.

At one stage, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan warned the Government that "all garda operations would have to stop immediately" for the rest of the year if extra money was not provided to cover the costs.

He said he was "somewhat taken aback" at the level of surprise being expressed about the cost.

But garda management had never formally told the Government that the cost of policing the visits was going to soar from €20m to almost €36m.

They failed to properly estimate initially how much it would cost in overtime and they also failed to include the cost of maintaining security in Dublin city centre over the weekend between the queen's departure and Mr Obama's arrival.

Eventually consultancy firm Capita had to be hired at a cost of €75,000 to sort out the dispute between garda management and the Government.

Its audit report, obtained by this newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act, revealed that British authorities insisted the queen move by road during her four-day visit -- even though "normally such movements would be conducted by air to minimise the security risk to the VIP".


It also detailed how gardai upped their security after Osama bin Laden was killed by US special forces a few weeks before Mr Obama's arrival for his one-day visit on May 23 last year.

But Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin told the gardai that their spending overrun of 80pc during the visits "cannot be tolerated" and criticised their "very worrying attitude" to spending control.

Mr Howlin was referring to the cabinet decision to provide extra funding to the gardai back on May 10 last year on the basis that the bill would be "in the region of €20m".

But four days later, gardai came up with a revised estimate which was just 2pc off the final security bill of almost €36m. Bizarrely, this was never passed on to Taoiseach Enda Kenny or Justice Minister Alan Shatter. Gardai told the auditors that they verbally briefed the Department of Justice about the increased cost.

But last night the department said it had no record of any of its officials being verbally contacted by the gardai.

Last December, Mr Howlin gave just €15m extra to the gardai towards the final €35.8m security bill. The gardai had to stump up the remaining €21m cost from their own budget.

Irish Independent

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