Armed Garda patrols cut in bid to reduce overtime spending
Garda union expresses anger over scaling back of counter-terror and gangland operations
Armed gardaí at a checkpoint on Portland Row, Dublin. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
Armed Garda patrols to detect and deter terrorism and organised crime gangs are being scaled back in a bid to reduce spending on overtime.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA) had said it was concerned armed policing in Dublin would be affected by moves to cut spending on Garda overtime.
Garda sources have now confirmed that this is the case, with the Armed Response Unit and Special Detective Unit patrols in Dublin being reduced.
The move has angered the GRA, which represents just in excess of 10,000 rank-and-file gardaí.
The GRA said the success of the units in “fighting drugs gangs with their uniformed colleagues on the frontline” could not be overestimated.
“Patrols need to be increased, not cut,” it said.
Asked about the matter, a Garda spokesman said: “For operational reasons An Garda Síochána does not discuss specific details surrounding the deployment of covert or uniform armed patrols.
“Garda management are satisfied that the present level of armed resources available within the DMR (Dublin Metropolitan Region) is sufficient to meet current policing requirements. The deployment of resources is kept under constant review.”
Operation Hybrid has been under way for the last 18 months in response to the Kinahan-Hutch feud. Operation C Port has also been set up to increase security in Dublin Port, amid concerns it may be an easy route into and out of the Republic for international terrorists.
Both have proven expensive and have resulted in overtime spending increase to levels last seen during the Celtic Tiger.
Some of the pay increase agreed in 2016 to avert a Garda strike is also being paid in the shape of 15 minutes of additional overtime per shift. This is set to put pressure on the Garda overtime budget into the future.
More than €130 million was spent on Garda overtime last year, compared with €91 million in 2016.
At the end of November Garda overtime was suddenly cancelled for several days, including over the first weekend of the Christmas socialising period, as the overtime budget for the year had been exhausted.
However, because any overtime worked after the first Monday in December would be paid from this year’s budget, the cancellation of overtime was restricted to five days.
A supplementary budget for 2017 of €50.5 million was agreed for An Garda Síochána by the Cabinet on November 28th. Of that, just in excess of €42 million was for overtime. That extra funding for overtime fell just short of what Garda management was expecting and it meant overtime for the remainder of the financial year – until December 4th – was cancelled.