CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Speech by Minister Charlie Flanagan TD on Garda overtime
Seanad Éireann, 29 November 2017
I welcome the opportunity to attend the House this evening to debate the position in relation to Garda overtime.
At the outset, can I say that the allocation and management of the overtime budget is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner having due regard to his operational needs.
I am satisfied that Garda management is acutely aware of the need to utilise the resources being made available to them in the most efficient and effective manner to ensure high visibility policing in our communities. This entails proper budgetary planning to ensure that the overtime requirements for any given year can be met in a managed and coherent way.
In particular, I believe that Senators will agree, that Garda management must continue to deliver on the extensive Garda reform programme that is currently underway and extract maximum benefit from the opportunities presented by that programme which is supported by unprecedented levels of public funding.
Senators may be aware that I am due to present a supplementary estimate of €44.2 million for the Garda vote before the Select Committee tomorrow morning which is intended to address the requirements of the Vote for 2017.
Without getting into too much technical detail, this supplementary estimate provides for additional expenditure of €58.1 million in gross terms and this is offset in part by surplus receipts on the vote of €13.9 million.
This provision includes an additional €50.489 million for the pay subhead including over €42 million for overtime.
This will bring the overtime budget to over €130 million for 2017. By any standards, this is a significant sum, particularly when compared to the spend in previous years - €91 million in 2016, €56 million in 2015 and some €37.7 million in 2014.
Budget 2018 provides for just under €100 million in overtime next year.
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.
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 €100 million has been made available for overtime in 2018.
I might add that my officials have been in contact with the Garda Commissioner’s Office and have been informed that any misunderstanding that has arisen internally in relation to the availability of necessary overtime in the period leading up to Christmas has been clarified by the relevant Assistant Commissioner.
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 Gardai 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.
Indeed, some €1.65 billion has been allocated to the Garda Vote for 2018. This is an increase of approximately 2% over the allocation for 2017 and includes almost €100 million for Garda overtime. Some €1.61 billion was allocated to the Garda Vote for 2017 and €1.55 billion in 2016.
This demonstrates the Government’s commitment to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime.
Senators will be aware that, to make this a reality for all, the Government has in place a plan to achieve an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians.
Taking account of projected retirements, reaching a strength of 15,000 by 2021 will require some 2,400 new Garda members to be recruited on a phased basis over the next three years.
Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, close to 1,400 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide.
In addition, another 200 trainee Garda are scheduled to attest next month which will see Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, increase to around the 13,500 mark by year end - an increase of 500 since the end of 2016.
This will clearly provide significant additional policing hours throughout the country, both in terms of the increase in new Gardaí and the redeployment of significant numbers of Gardaí to frontline policing duties consequential on the increased civilianisation of the organisation.
Senators will be aware that increasing the number of civilians in An Garda Síochána is a major element of the wider modernisation programme.
In addition, the proposed increase in the strength of the Garda Reserve will contribute strongly to available policing hours.
I would expect that this unprecedented level of recruitment for An Garda Síochána will, over a period of time, alleviate the pressure on the overtime budget.
In conclusion, I would like to stress that this Government has not been found wanting in providing resources to An Garda Síochána. It is incumbent on Garda management to manage effectively and efficiently the significant resources being made available to them.
My Department will, of course, be keeping all aspects of the Garda Budget under close review in conjunction with Garda Management during the course of 2018.