Source: Leon Farrell via Rolling News
THE MUSICAL BAND maintained by An Garda Síochána has cost taxpayers to the tune of €5.5 million in the past three years, new figures have revealed.
The Garda Band is comprised of 29 full-time musicians, who perform at a variety of national events including the Rose of Tralee Festival, the National Ploughing Championships, and the St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin.
Members of the band, none of whom are involved in policing duties, were paid an average of €58,985 each last year; and racked up transport, travel and subsistence expenses of €88,487 between 2014 and 2016.
Clothing and accessories for the Garda Band also cost the taxpayer €78,677 during the same period, while a further €70,426 was spent on communications and other equipment for the troupe.
The revelation that the Garda Band accounted for €5,478,764 of police spending during the past three years emerges less than a week after the scarcity of resources within An Garda Síochána came under scrutiny before the Oireachtas Justice Committee.
Last Thursday, Acting Garda Commissioner John Twomey told the Committee that the force’s overtime budget for 2017 was “under significant strain” and it had been necessary for Garda management to seek extra funding.
At the end of November, all non-essential overtime had to be reduced for a period of six days in an attempt to bring spending back in line with its budget. The overtime allocation for next year has also been reduced, said Twomey.
Records released under the Freedom of Information Act show that the cost of maintaining the Garda Band has increased by more than 5% in the past three years despite the number of members being reduced from 30 to 29.
In addition to salaries and allowances amounting to €5.2 million between 2014 and 2016, a total of €24,480 was spent on “training, development and incidental” expenses for the band; while €10,864 was spent in connection with the band’s premises in Phoenix Park.
The band provides music for official functions, such as graduation ceremonies at the Garda College in Co Tipperary, according to the police authority’s website.
“The band undertakes a heavy, community-oriented programme each year, performing at schools, festivals and sporting events,” it states.
“It has a long association with Lansdowne Road for rugby and soccer internationals, the St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin, and the Rose of Tralee Festival.
“The band has travelled to many international events and has represented the country on a number of occasions at police festivals and concerts in Switzerland, Germany and Northern Ireland.”
The Garda Band was established shortly after the foundation of An Garda Síochána in 1922. It was disbanded in November 1965 and its 35 full-time members were told to report for ordinary policing duties.
The decision was taken by then-Justice Minister Brian Lenihan, who said that the band had “outlived its usefulness” and that the cost of maintaining it was “excessive, wasteful, and out of all proportion to any purpose served”.
The band was re-established in 1972, however, to mark the 50th anniversary of the foundation of An Garda Síochána, and has remained a part of the force ever since.
The garda press office did not respond to a request for comment.