The visits to Ireland of US President Donald Trump and US Vice President Mike Pence cost the Garda up to €18 million, it has emerged. The figure is much higher than was previously believed.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said the two visits to Ireland were not known about when the 2019 budget for the Garda was set at the end of last year and were still not known about at the start of this year.
Replying to questions from the Policing Authority at Dublin Castle on Thursday, Mr Harris said it would not be reasonable to set aside a portion of the annual overtime budget at the start of the year in the order of what the Trump and Pence visits cost.
He said Garda members were paid, including overtime, to work on security during the visits. Accommodation and meals also had to be provided and some new equipment was purchased - all in the order of €15-€18 million he said.
Mr Harris added the biggest issue the Garda had with its overtime budget each year was that €20 million of it was being spent annually paying members of the force 15 minutes overtime for the briefing they received at the start of their shift.
“This much grieves some of us in the organisation,” he said of the payment, which was agreed three years ago to prevent a Garda withdrawal of service, or a strike in all but name.
Speaking in Los Angeles on Thursday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he believed the cost of the visits of Mr Trump and Mr Pence were “worth it”.
“I think it was worth it, you know. Anytime a high profile figure whether it’s Pope Francis or President Trump comes to Ireland, they’re always welcome- and there are benefits for Ireland in doing so.
“But we do appreciate that having two high profile visits this year has caused the garda overtime bill to be higher than would have been projected. It’s not unusual for one very high profile visitor, maybe president Trump or Queen Elizabeth or the Pope to come. But the fact that there were two was unprecedented. And certainly, you know, the Government is talking with the Department of Justice and the gardaí as to what we can do about that.”
Crimes against the person up
It also emerged at the Policing Authority meeting that crimes against the person have increased by 16 per cent this year; a very significant increase in any crime type in a year.
Deputy Commissioner John Twomey said the number of crimes against the person, including assaults, tended to increase in the summer months.
This was related to the consumption of alcohol, which was rising as the economy recovered and there was a corresponding upturn in the night time economy.
He added an “assault reduction” programme was being finalised within the Garda and this would be ready for national launch in the next month.
Meanwhile, Mr Harris also revisited the problems identified last year with the Garda Youth Diversion programme that saw more than 3,000 young people not pursued for alleged crimes. About 100 of the children had since died.
462 gardaí disciplined
Mr Harris said some 6,200 letters had been sent to the victims of those crimes to explain what had happened.
In the majority of cases most people had moved on with their lives and Mr Harris said the process of the Garda contacting them had repaired the damage caused to the force by the controversy.
He said a small number of victims contacted were upset that the young person accused of victimising them had not been pursued. In those cases personal contact was made by individual calls to them during which explanations were set out.
It was revealed earlier this year that some 3,500 individual gardaí were to be examined for possible disciplinary action relating to 8,500 cases of youth offenders not being pursued properly.
In 4,500 of those 8,500 cases, no disciplinary action is being taken. To date 462 gardaí have been disciplined for very minor matters relating to the cases.
It is not clear how many more gardaí will be disciplined as figures were not yet available from across the Garda, the Policing Authority was told.