Sunday 22 April 2018

Shatter gets extra €51m to pay gardai

Justice Minister Alan Shatter
Justice Minister Alan Shatter

THE Government has been forced to give an extra €51m to Justice Minister Alan Shatter to ensure gardai are paid their wages up until the end of the year.

The move to introduce a supplementary budget will be made in the Dail this week to offset a shortfall in funding for the force in the original 2013 estimate.

And it confirms a series of reports in the Irish Independent earlier this year that there was not enough money in the kitty to pay the gardai unless there was a huge increase in retirements and resignations.

In recent weeks, the budget shortages have been curbing the activities of some specialist units, with operations temporarily put on hold until personnel were available for duty without incurring additional costs, such as overtime.

Last night, Fianna Fail justice spokesman Niall Collins accused Mr Shatter of deliberately misleading the Dail about the garda budget on a number of occasions during the year.

He said the decision to bring in a supplementary estimate provided clear evidence that the minister had not provided adequate funding for the gardai at the beginning of 2013.

This shortage of funding meant that senior garda officers had been compromised in their efforts to achieve

proper manpower planning, he added.

A spokeswoman for the minister confirmed last night that Mr Shatter's proposals would be put before the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality on Wednesday for debate. It is expected it will then be tabled in the Dail the following day.

According to sources last night, Mr Shatter will introduce a supplementary budget of €50,994,000, which is the difference between his original garda estimate of €1.272bn and the revised estimate of €1.323bn.

A breakdown of the extra money shows that almost all of the cash, or €50,661,000, will be used for garda salaries, wages and allowances.

Some of the additional costs will be offset by savings in other sections of the Justice budget, but it is acknowledged that this still leaves a shortfall of over €32m, which has to be met in the supplementary budget.

A provision of about €5m extra on top of the garda budget is also being sought by Mr Shatter to meet the costs of the first of the compensation payments to the Magdalene Laundries women.

RETIREMENTS

The savings will be achieved by taking at least €17m from elsewhere in the Justice budget, €5m from capital spending on the prisons and a combined €1.5m from the courts service and the property registration authority budgets.

The minister is expected to tell TDs that it can be difficult to accurately predict the garda pay estimate because of a number of variable factors, including overtime and allowances and the number of retirements in any year.

However, senior garda officers and representative association leaders had made it clear that it would be impossible to bring down the overall strength of the force sufficiently during the year to ensure that payroll costs could be met by the original budget.

Garda management and senior civil servants had considered a number of "unusual" proposals, such as encouraging members to take career breaks for a few years.

More money was also needed to augment civilian staff during the year.

The minister will argue that once-off events can sometimes arise, sometimes at relatively short notice, which required a significant garda operational deployment. He will point to the G8 summit in June, which required a major garda security operation in the Border area, although it was being held in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh.

But the supplementary budget shows that the unexpected Enniskillen costs were offset by savings in security costs for Ireland's EU presidency during the first six months of the year, with garda management spending only €3,581,000 out of an original budget of €10m.

This resulted in a saving of €6,419,000, which was used for other major garda operations, including Enniskillen.

Mr Collins said his party had sought discovery of correspondence between the garda authorities and the Department of Justice during the year but had been denied this under the Freedom of Information Act.

This denial indicated there were problems with garda funding and this had now been confirmed.

Under repeated questioning in the Dail, the minister, said Mr Collins, had insisted the gardai were being given adequate funding but the budget figures now showed that Mr Shatter had not presented the true picture and had misled the Dail on a number of occasions.

Tom Brady Security Editor

Irish Independent

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