Garda body hits out at 'extraordinary development' as Harris cuts all discretionary overtime

Gordon Deegan

The Commissioner of An Garda Siochána, Drew Harris, today announced that he has cut discretionary and administrative overtime across the force.

Commissioner Harris has made the cuts as new figures show that to the end of August, the garda overtime bill had spiralled to €84.7m.

The total approved overtime garda budget for the year is €100m showing a remaining budget of only €15.3m for the final four months of the year.

In a statement this, evening, Commissioner Harris said: “Regrettably, An Garda Síochána will significantly exceed the budget this year. This is not a sustainable position."

He said: “To minimise the impact on policing and security activity, while reducing the excess spend before the end of the year, I have cut discretionary overtime and administrative overtime.”

Commissioner Harris said: “Overtime will still be available for specific policing / security operations, but only with the approval of the relevant Assistant Commissioner following discussion with Deputy Commissioner, Policing and Security.”

He said: “An Garda Síochána must work within the annual budget provided to it by Government. This has been stressed continually to garda managers at all levels throughout 2018."

Drew Harris

In a written Dáil reply on the issue, Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan confirmed the €84.7m overtime spend to the end of August.

He told Deputy John Curran (FF): “I have already discussed the financial position with Commissioner Harris. We are agreed that it is essential that value for money is achieved with the resources at his disposal and insofar as the emerging overrun in 2018 is concerned, he will be working with his senior management team to identify any measures that can be taken to ameliorate the situation.”

Minister Flanagan separately told Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire (SF) in a written Dáil reply said: “I understand from the Garda authorities that a comprehensive review of Garda overtime commenced this month.”

Minister Flanagan said that it is intended for the review “to identify a range of measures to prioritise, target and control overtime to ensure that Garda resources are used in the most efficient and effective way possible and having regard to operational needs”.

Charlie Flanagan

Communications Director with the Garda Representative Association (GRA), John O’Keeffe said that the garda directive cancelling all discretionary expenditure across a range of areas “will impact on the capacity of all Gardaí on the frontline to do their job – particularly those involved in the investigation of crime gangs in the capital”.

He said: “This is an extraordinary development. As overtime is only ever incurred where necessary and must be approved in advanced."

Mr O’Keeffe said: “Where the requirement continues to exist, it is clear evidence of a resourcing issue. Overtime is essential if our members are to provide an effective policing service to the general public in Dublin and across the country."

While excessive overtime is part recognition that frontline gardaí do not have adequate policing resources, regardless, overtime will always be a feature of policing, due to the nature of the job and the varying demands it makes on officers. This is not an Irish but a global policing phenomenon.

Mr O’Keeffe said that the GRA was now calling on Government “to immediately sit down with Commissioner Drew to show their bona fides in his first weeks in office.”

He said: “The agreed overtime must now be reinstated if we are to keep our streets safe in the lead up to Christmas.

Mr O’Keeffe said that Government needs to be especially conscious of the signal this Directive sends to the criminal fraternity – particularly in the lead up to Christmas.

He said: “The GRA asks, what does this say to the public and the business community?”

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