Garda overtime bill to exceed €130m for 2017, Justice Minister says

It comes amid criticism from the GRA about any cuts to overtime

Garda overtime bill to exceed €130m for 2017, Justice Minister says

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan talking to the media at Government Buildings in Dublin | Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has said the overtime budget in An Garda Síochána will be "over" €130m for 2017.

Speaking in the Seanad on Wednesday evening, Mr Flanagan said: "By any standards, this is a significant sum, particularly when compared to the spend in previous years - €91m in 2016, €56m in 2015 and some €37.7m in 2014."

He said Budget 2018 provides for just under €100m in overtime next year.

It comes amid criticism from the Garda Representative Association (GRA), who warned that any cut to overtime is "like an early Christmas present" for criminals.

They were responding after Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy told senior managers there was not enough money to pay overtime for the rest of the year.

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

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

Minister Flanagan said: "I am at a loss to comprehend the proposition made by some commentators that there is no money to pay for garda overtime in the run up to Christmas.

"I want to be clear: there is absolutely no absolute ban on garda overtime in the period leading up to Christmas.

"It is important to note that overtime worked in December actually falls due to be paid from the 2018 budget and, as I have indicated, just under €100m has been made available for overtime in 2018."

File photo

He said his officials have been in contact with the Garda Commissioner’s Office, and have been informed that any "misunderstanding that has arisen internally" over the availability of overtime in the period leading up to Christmas has been clarified by the relevant Assistant Commissioner.

Mr Flanagan said the figures should also be taken in context.

"It is also important to note that overtime cannot be taken in isolation to the other resources available to An Garda Síochána.

"For example, a further 800 gardaí will have been recruited by the end of this year and Budget 2018 also provides for this level of continuing recruitment.

"Provision has also been made for significant civilian recruitment which will allow for the redeployment of gardaí from behind desks to the front-line to do what they have been trained and are being paid to do."

Minister Flanagan also said his department will be keeping "all aspects" of the garda budget "under close review" during the course of next year.