Taoiseach insists funding is available for Garda overtime

GRA says a ban on overtime is 'like an early Christmas present' for criminals

Updated 14.05

The Taoiseach has insisted there is extra funding available for Garda overtime.

The clarification came after the Garda Representative Association (GRA) warned that cutting overtime is "like an early Christmas present" for criminals.

They were responding after the man in charge of policing in Dublin - Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy - told senior managers there is not enough money to pay overtime for the rest of the year.

There were only two exceptions to the overtime restrictions - the armed operation targeting the Kinahan-Hutch feud and other criminal gangs, and policing at Dublin Port.

Overtime is also being temporarily reduced nationwide.

However, officials moved to clarify the situation this afternoon - indicating the restrictions will only be in place for the remainder of this week.

In a statement, An Garda Síochana said the force's overtime budget is 'kept under constant review'.

It adds: "An Garda Síochána’s budget for 2018 starts on Monday, December 4, 2017 and from that day overtime will then be available to regional, division and district officers for policing delivery within the overtime budget allocated to them.

"All officers will be reminded of the clear need for them to stay within allocated budgets."

'Supplementary estimate'

In the Dáil, Leo Varadkar told TDs that funds are available.

He explained: "There will be a supplementary estimate for gardaí - and that includes overtime."

He added that the estimate set to be provided by the Justice Select Committee tomorrow will include €42 million in overtime.

He also indicated that December overtime would be included in the force's 2018 budget rather than this year's.

Earlier, Ciaran O'Neill - president of the GRA - told Newstalk Breakfast: "We're astonished with the decision to remove it completely and have a complete blanket ban on all types of overtime.

"We've always said we just don't have the numbers to police this state effectively and efficiently. We've always maintained that this is a numbers issue, and the only way to supplement our numbers is by overtime."

He added: "If you want to take a comparison between this state and a similar-sized country like Scotland, we should have at least 17,000 police officers. We currently have 13,500.

"To fill that gap, it's being done by overtime - and to have a complete ban... it's literally like an early Christmas present for the criminal fraternity."

Reporting by Stephanie Grogan and Stephen McNeice