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budget 2024

National Security: Garda overtime increase, 1,000 extra gardaí and €21m more in Defence budget

The Defence and Justice allocations were announced by Expenditure Minister Pascal Donohoe in the Dáil today.

LAST UPDATE | Oct 10th 2023, 6:58 PM

THE NATIONAL SECURITY budget will see funding for 1,000 garda recruits and a major €25m increase in the garda budget to meet overtime demands along with an increase in Defence spending. 

The Garda funding increase is included in a package of €172 million in 2024 for the whole Justice sector.

Earlier this year Dublin was given €10 million extra in July to pay for an overtime shortfall needed to staff specialist anti-social behaviour patrols – it is understood this new announcement will cover the whole country.  

The overtime increase will bring that allocation up from €105 million to €131 million.

Garda recruits will see an increase in their training allowance – bringing it up from €184 to €305.

Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, said that the money was part of a Government plan to make people “feel safe” in their communities.

He said it would “enable continued investment in existing services and a range of new policy measures to support safety and vitality across our communities”.

He also announced that funding has been allotted for recruitment next year of 1,000 gardaí and upwards of 250 Garda civilian staff in specialist roles and to free up more Gardaí for frontline policing duties.

The increase in overtime, Donohoe said, is to fund “as needed” to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour. 

“These measures will ensure stronger, high visibility policing in our cities, towns and communities,” he said.

Donohoe also said that the Prison Service, Data Protection Commissioner and Policing Authority will get extra funding for additional staff.

The Minister also said that there will be an increase in a range of domestic, sexual and gender based violence initiatives and the extension of youth diversion programmes across the State.  

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said in a statement that she had secured funding of €9m to make progress in increasing the fees payable to legal professionals for criminal legal aid by 10% in early 2024.

Barristers in Criminal law had been in dispute with the State over fees for appearances at the District Court – they were on strike last week

She also said that the Irish Prison Service budget would be increased by over €27m to €439m.

Defence

The Defence allocation for 2024 will be €1.23 billion – Donohoe said that this was an additional €21m on current expenditure and an additional €34m in capital expenditure compared to the original capital ceiling included in the National Development Plan.

The Minister said that this funding will help to progress priority recommendations of the Commission on the Defence Forces – a report that looked at the effectiveness of the Irish military.

He also said that the funding will also help to fund recommendations under the Independent Review Group (IRG) – a report into allegations of sexual abuse and bullying in the Defence Forces.

Donohoe said the allocation will likely help to fund a Tribunal of Inquiry into the findings of the IRG.

He said that increasing the permanent Defence Forces numbers will be key to building capacity and further progressing the reform programme. He said the allocation was also a “significant investment” in equipment and infrastructure to support the work of the Defence Forces “at home and abroad”. 

“Today’s allocation will provide for the recruitment, training and support of a net additional 400 military personnel in 2024 as well as posts across the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces to implement reform in important roles such as cyber responders and analyst capacity,” he said. 

Security sources said that the key to understanding the benefit of the increases in Defence will be in the revised estimates which will be released in the coming months. 

The Revised Estimates Volume for the Public Service (the REV) is published in mid-December each year and these documents provide more detail on the allocations that were announced in the Budget.

The REV also summarises the forecasted spending that has taken place throughout the current year.

It is not known if the capital increase is in the built infrastructure such as accomodation and barracks or in new equipment and capabilities such as aircraft, vehicles and ships. 

Defence reaction

A spokesperson for the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers welcomed the increase but cautioned that “the devil is in the detail”.

“Announcements of a net increase of 400 military personnel ignore the fact that the training capacity to induct well over 1000 people to achieve this target simply does not exist.

“Promised Naval Service retention measures such as increased Patrol Duty Allowance to address the apparent collapse of our seagoing capability have not materialised and this is a major concern for our members.

“Without significant retention initiatives, worryingly absent from this Budget, the Defence Forces cannot become an employer of choice and strive for the Level of Ambition urgently recommended by the Commission on the Defence Forces twenty months ago,” the spokesperson said.  

PDFORRA President Mark Keane, who represents rank and file members of the military, welcomed the news of a budget increase said it will not solve the staffing crisis.  

“Whilst we welcome increased does not go near enough to address the chronic retention and recruitment crisis that the Defence Forces is suffering. 

“The lack of movement on renumeration and pay measures does not lend itself to encourage people to stay in the Irish Defence Forces – this is a missed opportunity to address the glaring problems in the Irish Naval Service around the Patrol Duty Allowance,” he said.

Ronan Slevin, Garda Representative Association (GRA) General Secretary, said the organisation welcomed today’s announcement.

Slevin pointed to an “urgent need” for more members on the frontline due to what he called an “unprecedented” recruitment and retention situation facing An Garda Síochána.

“However, it must be stated that in Budget 2021 we were promised 800 new recruits in 2022 and just under 300 came through Templemore and we were then promised 1,000 recruits for 2023 but we will see just over 600 which barely covers the losses through retirements and resignations,” Slevin said.

“So we must give this a guarded welcome and hope that we can achieve these extra numbers in the interest of the safety and wellbeing of our members and of the public, but also that they continue to address issues within the force to make a career in AGS a safer and more attractive one to potential recruits.

“The issue of trainee garda wages is one that has long concerned the GRA and we have raised this with both garda management and government departments. While the rise to €305 per week is an improvement on the current level, it doesn’t even match minimum wage, never mind the current cost of living.”

Additional reporting by Eoghan Dalton

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