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€20m fingerprint machine spends 4 years idle because of union dispute

Civil servants refuse to operate machine which was intended to tackle immigrant benefit fraud without increase in pay.

One of the new fingerprint scan machines being shown to media at Garda HQ in the Phoenix Park in 2007
One of the new fingerprint scan machines being shown to media at Garda HQ in the Phoenix Park in 2007

THE GOVERNMENT BOUGHT a €20m fingerprint machine four years ago in a big to catch immigrants engaging in benefit fraud – but it has yet to be used.

The Seanad has heard that the machine had been installed in the Garda National Immigration Bureau in 2006, according to RTE. It was intended to uncover fraudsters who were claiming benefits in more than one country at a time, and link up with UK and other foreign police forces.

However, the Garda Press Office confirmed that the machine is still lying idle because civil servants in the Immigration Bureau would not use it until they secured higher pay. Their union said that its members did not have legal authority to take fingerprints but that negotiations between the Department of Justice and the civil servants was continuing.

Senator Maurice Cummins of Fine Gael criticised the stalemate, saying:

The Croke Park Agreement was set up to end these kind of practices and increase flexibility, and indeed, productivity in the public service. Where is the progress when we see practices like this continue.

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