Saturday 17 March 2018

Taxpayers foot €70,000 bill to protect homes of two ministers

Shane Phelan Public Affairs Editor

TWO government ministers spent almost €70,000 of taxpayers' money between them beefing up security in their homes.

The disclosure, made by the Office of Public Works (OPW), comes amid heightened unease among members of the Cabinet over their personal security.

Last weekend, the Castlebar home of Taoiseach Enda Kenny was picketed for the first time, with a fathers' rights group staging a protest, while a window was smashed on a car transporting Environment Minister Phil Hogan earlier this month.

The homes of Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Finance Minister Michael Noonan have also been broken into since the Coalition came to power.

The OPW has declined, for security reasons, to identify the ministers.

However, records obtained from the OPW by the Irish Independent show almost all of the work has been completed in recent months, as protests linked to the abortion debate have intensified.

The records show the ministers only recently became security conscious, with no spending at all in 2011, and very little in 2012.

One minister had €40,776 worth of security measures installed in their home earlier this year.

A second minister has had works costing €27,314 on their private residence this year. The work was carried out in several tranches – with individual sums of €3,575, €1,532, €1,015, €19,408 and €1,784 spent by the OPW on the minister's home. All of the work was funded by the taxpayer.

Traditionally, both the Taoiseach and the justice minister are entitled to have a garda stationed at their homes, while the force routinely monitors the homes of other ministers.

However, it is open to other ministers to request additional security measures.

The OPW said it has no role in approving the security measures, which are installed based on garda recommendations following a risk assessment.

A spokesman for Mr Kenny said he had not made any recent changes to his security arrangements.

A spokesman for Mr Shatter said: "It is not the practice to comment on security arrangements applying to ministers or other persons, which are made on the basis of garda advice."

A leading security adviser told the Irish Independent that a sum of €40,000 would more than cover the cost of a sophisticated alarm and CCTV system, and that it is likely structural changes were made to the building if such a sum was involved.

Irish Independent

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