Security spend on homes of Ministers and officials up threefold

Figures provided to Dáil watchdog reveals expenditure jumped above €700,000 in 2021

Spending on security measures at the homes of Ministers and other State officials like judges has more than tripled in the space of a year.

Figures provided to the Dáil’s spending watchdog, the Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) show that the sums involved jumped from €213,024 in 2020 to €707,787 in 2021.

The spending came during a period of increased security concerns surrounding politicians. There have been several cases of protests at the homes of ministers. Earlier this year it was decided that Cabinet Ministers would have greater security in the form of a return of Garda drivers and State cars. This followed a review of their personal safety carried out by the force.

The murders in Britain of Tory MP David Amess in 2021 and Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016 has raised general concern about the personal safety of politicians.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) provided the PAC with figures for its spending on security arrangements for private residences.

A letter from its chairman, Maurice Buckley, did not offer information on the scale or amount of security measures provided amid concern it would undermine them.

“Releasing any information on the individual costs gives an insight into the level and extent of the security measures on individual sites, thereby potentially placing people and property at risk,” wrote Mr Buckley.

The correspondence was discussed at a meeting of the PAC on Thursday.

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said it is obvious the spending related to office holders like judges or Ministers. She said it would be useful to get "a rough idea" of the security measures provided, not just the costs.

Politicians and judges

Comptroller and Auditor General Séamus McCarthy said his office had looked at the area previously and the spending tends to be on building security features, surveillance equipment and electronic gates.

Mr McCarthy said politicians and judges are included among the groups offered security measures at their homes. He said they are predominantly provided for senior officials, but not always, saying they could be provided to an official at any level if there is a threat against them.

He said it is the gardaí that make an assessment of what security measures may be required or the Courts Service in the case of a judge being appointed to deal with criminal cases when they hadn’t been in the past.

The PAC agreed to seek an explanation from the OPW for the increased costs between 2020 and 201.

The committee chairman, Sinn Féin’s Brian Stanley, suggested the increase “shows that there’s a lot of things happened in the last year unfortunately . . . I think it’s unfortunate those measures are required . . . there was a perception of increased risks to certain people. Hopefully those risks will reduce and sanity will prevail . . . in fairness people are entitled to have their peace in their family home and a level of security.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

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