Irish Examiner

Garda bill for Bush visit and May Day hits €12m

03 July 2004
By John Breslin

OPPOSITION politicians are to grill Justice Minister Michael McDowell in the Dáil next week after it emerged €12 million was spent on gardaí security for the May Day weekend and President George W Bush’s 18-hour visit to Clare. Figures released under parliamentary questions show an estimated €5m was spent on overtime, travel and subsistence for the 3,800 gardaí deployed for Mr Bush’s visit.

This is on top of more than €7 million spent on overtime, expenses and equipment during the May Day weekend.

FG justice spokesman Jim O’Keeffe wants Mr McDowell to explain what impact the EU presidency will have on the garda budget for the rest of the year.

The costs for those two weekends are much higher than the estimated spending on security and policing for the six months of Ireland’s EU presidency. Just last month, the Department of Finance estimated it would be €8.5m in total.

A Department of Justice spokesman said yesterday that an extra €7.5m was available to pay for overtime incurred. But there is no extra money in the budget for travel subsistence, with €1m less being allocated than the amount spent last year.

Mr O’Keeffe expressed concern about the cost of policing the two events.

“These two events have effectively absorbed all of the additional funds provided to the gardaí for the presidency. It means that the cost of the security arrangements for the many high-level meetings and functions the Irish presidency hosted will have to come from normal garda resources,” said Mr O’Keeffe.

Hoteliers in Dublin will be celebrating a bonanza after it emerged the gardaí spent €236,000 on accommodation for members on the May Day weekend.

Around 5,000 were on duty policing protests and celebrations as 10 countries formally joined the EU.

The €12m does not include the extra costs incurred by the Defence Forces, though they are expected to be significantly lower since overtime is not a factor.

A Justice Department spokesman defended the costs, saying the gardaí were given all resources necessary to protect the public and visiting heads of state.

The gardaí will be given the resources needed in the second half of the year, the Justice Department spokesman insisted.

However, Mr O’Keeffe believes the implications are very serious.

“Are we going to see cutbacks in overtime, fewer gardaí on the beat, less resources for vital equipment, reduced opening hours of stations?” he asked.

The bill

An estimated €4.9m on overtime and travel during the Bush visit.

The overtime bill amounts to €272,000 for every hour Bush stayed in Ireland.

An estimated €6m on overtime and travel during the May Day weekend.

€236,000 on hotel bills for May Day.

€736,000 to buy equipment for use over the May Day weekend.

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