Gardaí call for special tax breaks to combat higher living expenses
Conference hears high rents in cities impacting younger gardaí due to lower pay
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, meeting local Gardaí Siobhan Barry and James McCarthy, at GRA Annual Delegate Conference in Killarney. Photograph: Valerie O’Sullivan
Gardaí working in stations in rent pressure zones should be given an extra allowance or special tax breaks because their living expenses are higher, a Garda conference has heard.
Members of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) want the organisation to begin a campaign to secure financial assistance of some kind.
Garda Graham O’Neill told the association’s annual delegate conference in Killarney, Co Kerry, there were 22 rent pressure zones nationally where rent and all day-to-day living costs were higher than other parts of Ireland.
He said a standalone allowance or a special tax break could be introduced for some Garda members to help ease the financial pressure of working in more expensive areas.
Garda O’Neill is based in Kilmainham Garda station and was representing gardaí from the Dublin south centre division at the conference. He said the additional costs were impacting younger Garda members most because they were paid less – just over €30,000 after graduation.
“New recruits leaving Templemore have absolutely no say in where they end up being stationed,” he said.
“They get told where they’re being sent and it’s up to them then to look for accommodation.”
If they decided to live in the area where they worked the rents were very high. However, if they opted to commute there were costs associated with that, he said, and even childcare costs could be higher living in, or close to, rent pressure zones.
“It’s right across the country, it’s not just Dublin,” he said of gardaí being posted to stations in areas with higher living costs. “It affects counties Louth, Meath, Wicklow, Limerick, Cork and Galway.”
Also at the conference, GRA national executive member Damien McCarthy said a full-time public order unit was required for Dublin to combat disorder.
He said there was a very pressing need to have a unit in place in case hooliganism broke out when some of the Euro 2020 soccer matches are played in the city next year.
At present, the public order unit that could be assembled in Dublin comprised gardaí who worked in other full-time posts in the force. They were drafted in, on overtime, to work on public order unit duties when required. But now a full-time unit was needed given the policing risks in the city, he said.
Garda in Dublin policed a population of more than one million, including tourists and people commuting into the city. There were also two major stadiums – the Aviva and Croke Park – in the city that could hold 50,000 and 80,000 spectators respectively.
It was clear, Mr McCarthy said, that Dublin needed a dedicated public order unit.
“I think this is a necessary dedicated unit to ensure we’re enhancing the [policing] service that we’re providing to people in the country’s capital,” he said.
“We always want to ensure that we have a safe environment. If and when a situation of violence arises we want to have appropriate graduated responses.”
Other delegates pointed out the night-time economy was recovering, which meant more people on the streets of Dublin city socialising at night and a higher number of tourists than ever in the capital. And they said many very large street protests were also held in the city centre.