Security fears prompt Garda drivers and extra protection for Ministers

ireland
Security Fears Prompt Garda Drivers And Extra Protection For Ministers Security Fears Prompt Garda Drivers And Extra Protection For Ministers
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris recommended that three ministers cease to use civilian drivers and their own cars. Photo: PA Images
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Senior Ministers in the Government are set to receive full-time police protection amid growing concern over their safety.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will receive the extra protection, the Irish Examiner reports, including two Garda drivers each.

It is the first time in 11 years that ministers in these portfolios will have Garda drivers, after the entitlement was withdrawn as an austerity measure.

At present, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney are the only Cabinet members to have retained Garda protection drivers.

There was controversy in 2020 when it emerged that Mr Varadkar intervened to ensure Mr Coveney kept his Garda driver, despite his demotion from the role of Tánaiste.

Protests

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The move follows a spate of sometimes hostile protests outside the homes of leading politicians, including members of the Cabinet.

On foot of those protests, a joint review of security was initiated by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and the Department of Justice.

Mr Harris recommended that the three ministers cease to use civilian drivers and their own cars, with it understood that the recommendation has been approved.

The President, Chief Justice and Director of Public Prosecutions are the only other people who retain a State car with a full-time Garda at the wheel.

The cost of the ministerial pool of drivers is about €2.5 million a year, which includes wages, expenses, allowances and maintenance.

Costs ran closer to €6 million a year when all senior ministers had a Garda driver. The ministerial pool at that stage amounted to 77 full-time drivers, plus a number of standby personnel.

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