Friday 24 November 2017

Editorial: Ministers must learn to do their jobs on budget

Minister for Health James Reilly
Minister for Health James Reilly

The news that the garda budget has been hit by an 'unexpected' shortfall of between €60m and €70m might not seem like a great calamity, given that overall funding for the force for 2014 is €1.34bn. However, to do this for the second year in a row can best be described as unfortunate. It is interesting that on Budget Day last October the then Justice Minister, Alan Shatter, announced that despite "very difficult economic decisions" he had managed to keep cutbacks at the department to just €70m.

So now, mid-way through the year, we learn that all the savings for 2014 have effectively been wiped out by over-runs in the garda budget alone. This has happened despite unpopular cutbacks in allowances, the closure of rural garda stations and a raft of measures which have gone down badly with the general public, particularly in rural Ireland where there is a feeling that vast swathes of the countryside have now been left at the mercy of marauding gangs.

Happily, this Armageddon-like scenario hasn't come to pass, although there have been particularly harrowing incidents of families and business being targeted by urban-based gangs preying on 'easy targets.' However, the reality is that garda resources are badly stretched, not only in local policing but also in important areas like white-collar crime, which has provoked a leading barrister to declare that "we live in a veritable golden age for hucksters and fraudsters of all sorts."

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