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Queen and Obama cost us a staggering €40m

THE security bill for the State visits of Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth is close to €40m -- almost twice the initial estimate.

The Justice Minister has been left red-faced after predicting last month that the cost would be in the region of €20m.

But it emerged yesterday that the true figure for garda security has rocketed to €36m, with an additional €1.8m being forked out on the defence forces.

Taxpayers will also pick up a €600,000 bill for organising President Obama's College Green event, as well as a €280,000 bill for Department of Foreign Affairs staff working on the visit.

And it is widely expected that the true cost of the visits will be much greater.

Taxpayers have been stung for €26,000 for putting in new bins throughout the city, figures obtained by the Herald reveal.

Speaking before an Oireachtas committee yesterday, Justice Minister Alan Shatter said he "deeply regretted" the spiralling costs, but that it must be balanced against the long-term benefits of the visits.

"The vast scale of the security operation put in place by An Garda Siochana was commensurate with the very real security threats involved," he said.

"It is important that the cost is balanced against the substantial long-term benefits to the country in terms of favourable press coverage and 'free advertising', in particular through the international televised media."

The minister laid blame on the dissident protests by "thugs" as one of the reasons for increasing the security levels.

"If we didn't have a very small group of political malcontents and thugs who posed a threat at the time of these visits ... if we didn't have individuals of that nature the level of security required wouldn't have been as high and the expense incurred by the taxpayer wouldn't be as great."

noconnor@herald.ie


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