Dublin gang feud and rural crime ‘stretching Garda budget’

Department of Justice says it cannot rule out seeking extended budget for Garda overtime

Department of Justice officials warn there is a vital requirement to provide sufficient funds to recruit 500 civilians to address ‘critical skills and capacity issues’. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Department of Justice officials warn there is a vital requirement to provide sufficient funds to recruit 500 civilians to address ‘critical skills and capacity issues’. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

The Department of Justice has said it cannot rule out seeking a supplementary budget for An Garda Síochána due to increasing overtime costs.

The Irish Times has learned the monies set aside for overtime for gardaí is proven to be insufficient, and additional monies may be required.

Senior management in the force held a meeting in recent weeks to discuss the rising costs, and warned the overtime bill was becoming “unsustainable”, sources said.

It is understood the surveillance of the Hutch and Kinahan gangs in Dublin, the response to rural crime and the required presence of gardaí in the courts are being cited as reasons for the financial difficulties.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said it was premature to speculate on whether a supplementary estimate would be required by An Garda Síochána. “This will be evaluated in detail later in the year when the overall expenditure across the sector as a whole will be clearer.”

However, a number of meetings are scheduled to take place between Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe at the end of August to examine the options available to them.

A total of €88.5 million was set aside in Budget 2017 for overtime, but it is understood a significant amount of that has been used in the first half of the year.

The Department of Justice was unable to provide figures to The Irish Times.

A briefing paper prepared for Mr Flanagan when he took office in June has also outlined the need for the Government to hire 1,600 additional members to the force in 2018.

Critical skills

The Department of Justice officials warn there is a vital requirement to provide sufficient funding in particular to recruit 500 civilians to address “critical skills and capacity issues”.

The paper also criticises Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan’s failure to prepare a five-year workforce plan to assess staffing issues. It was due by the end of 2016.

“The report remains outstanding. However the department is currently working with An Garda Síochána, the Policing Authority and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to ensure its completion as soon as possible.”

The briefing paper also points to the ongoing costs of two commissions of investigation under its remit. The O’Higgins Commission, which has reported on Garda malpractice allegations in Cavan/Monaghan, has cost €1.784 million but a number of costs are due to follow.

The MacLochlainn Commission, examining the fatal shooting of Ronan MacLochlainn by members of the gardaí in May 1998, has cost €1.153 million to date.

Meanwhile, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has concluded its report into the financial irregularities at Templemore Garda college.

Public monies

The report, which is due for publication on Tuesday, is strongly critical of the Garda Commissioner and the Department of Justice for failing to act when they became aware of the mismanagement of public monies at the college.

The committee has found the commissioner failed in her duties as an accounting officer of An Garda Síochána, and criticises her decision not to issue a section 41 notification to the Minister for Justice in July 2015, informing the Minister of the issue.

The report also criticises the culture within the force, stating there is an attempt to cover up difficulties and shield them from public scrutiny.

It is understood the clash of senior management is also cited heavily in the final report, and says the decision not to give head of human resources John Barrett a written letter about him by the Garda director of finance Michael Culhane was not acceptable.

The correspondence was given to the PAC and showed Mr Culhane had asked the commissioner to investigate Mr Barrett under the Official Secrets Act.

Mr Barrett was unaware of the contents of the letter until it was sent to the PAC and published in The Irish Times.