Ministers to get garda drivers again amid security fears

Ministers to get garda drivers again amid security fears

Senior Government ministers are to be given extra police protection amid growing fears for their safety.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath, and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly are to have full-time protection, including the use of two garda drivers each, it has been confirmed.

It is the first time in 11 years that ministers in these portfolios will have had Garda drivers. The entitlement had been withdrawn as an austerity measure.

The news comes amid controversy over the use of army personnel to drive HSE boss Paul Reid from his Leitrim home to Dublin, despite his €429,000 a year salary.

At present, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Foreign Affairs Minister 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.

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 €2.5m a year, which includes wages, expenses, allowances and maintenance. It was running closer to €6m 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.

The move comes following 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 to Justice Minister Helen McEntee that the three ministers should cease to use civilian drivers and their own cars and instead have Garda protection. That recommendation has been approved.

It is understood the move was not subject to a Cabinet decision but done on the strength of the recommendation by the Garda Commissioner.

Government sources have indicated the “door remains open” for the return to Garda protection to be extended to other members of the Cabinet.

Each minister will be entitled to two garda protection officers working a week on-week off schedule, as well as a Garda car.

Comments in response to Irish Examiner queries on this matter were sought from the departments of Justice, Health, Finance and Public Expenditure but none were forthcoming.

Austerity measure

The use of Garda drivers for most Cabinet

Read More

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.