Significant restrictions on Garda overtime are set to remain in place until early next week despite a €50 million fresh injection of funding for policing set to be formalised today.
A supplementary budget of €50.5 million was agreed at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting and was due to be ratified in the Dáil on Thursday. Of that, just over €42 million will be for overtime.
However, the money has already been spent during the course of the year. And the extra funds will not address the fact the 2017 Garda budget for overtime has been exhausted.
A ban on most forms of overtime was introduced at no notice in Dublin from midnight on Tuesday. And the Garda has confirmed it will remain in place until Monday.
After midnight on Sunday any overtime incurred to the end of the calendar year will not be paid until mid-January, meaning it will come from the 2018 budget.
The cancellation of overtime for the five-day period emerged publicly on Tuesday.
It comes at the end of a year in which Operation Hybrid, which tackles the Kinahan-Hutch feud, and Operation C-Port, for security at Dublin Port, have strained the overtime budget in Dublin.
However, because the two operations are deemed security priorities, they have been exempted from the current temporary overtime ban.
Instead, all other policing operations requiring overtime to fund them – including burglary response operations – have been stopped.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday appeared annoyed that news of the cancellation of overtime had emerged in the media just hours after the Cabinet had agreed the supplementary funding for the force.
However, some Garda sources said the portion of the extra funds earmarked for overtime was slightly lower than expected, adding it only covered expenditure already made this year. And so it was decided to pause overtime spending until midnight on Sunday, after which any overtime incurred would come from the 2018 budget.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA) described the cancellation of Garda overtime as an early "Christmas present for criminals''.
It believed policing operations to combat burglaries and drink-driving would be impacted. And it was also fearful there would not be enough resources in place as the night-time economy was recovering and already straining the Garda frontline.
Mr Varadkar said the total overtime Garda budget this year was €130 million, which was very big. It was happening at a time when the number of gardaí was increasing again, with 200 more full-time members of the force available to police the State next month.
He said he “would like to understand the public announcement yesterday a bit better’’.
He said overtime was paid a month in arrears, so December overtime would never have been paid out of the 2017 budget anyway. It was paid in January.
“I would have hoped or assumed Garda management would have been aware of that,’’ he said.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said an assistant commissioner had said the Garda budget for 2017 had been exhausted. “I think we need a better explanation as to how this happens within our security system,’’ he added.