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Tuesday 5 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C
Sam Boal

Taoiseach says there is a 'risk to senior ministers' if Garda drivers not reintroduced

‘A lot of ministers don’t want to return to Garda drivers,’ he said.

LAST UPDATE | Sep 21st 2022, 2:00 PM

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has told reporters that the recent announcement that government ministers would be driven by a pool of Garda drivers was necessary to protect senior ministers from attack.

Speaking at the National Ploughing Championships in Laois, Martin was asked if the reintroduction of Garda drivers for ministers, which was scrapped under austerity measures in 2012, was a good idea during the cost of living crisis.

“The government didn’t start it, a lot of ministers don’t want to return to Garda drivers. They’re quite happy with the civilian position that they have, which has costs as well, by the way,” he said.

“So I’m not sure what the net cost between transitioning from where ministers have civilian drivers to Garda drivers, but the Garda Commissioner is adamant.” 

“There was a review done in terms of vulnerability of politicians to assault, attack and so on. So this is security matter. The commissioner is adamant in the security advice that’s been provided to me that if this isn’t done, there’s a risk to senior ministers. And that that’s the bottom line behind that.”

The Irish Examiner has reported that the current cost of the civilian drivers for ministers is about €2.5 million each year, less than the €6 million a year cost when all senior ministers had a Garda driver. 

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, who was also at the Ploughing Championships, said that Garda Commissioner Drew Harris takes the safety of minister very seriously.

“Obviously their security is under review consistently,” McEntee said.

“The reports have been presented to me and to government and I’m not really going to comment on this any further.”

She refused to comment on the costings of the move.

“But we do have a report, and we obviously take those reports very seriously, as does the Taoiseach and government and we’ll be responding to that report.

“This is a security measure and I think any security matter that’s presented to us by the Garda Commissioner, we have to take that seriously.”

“That’s what we’re doing. I can’t comment on this any further. But obviously anything that happens after that report, it’s a matter for government.

“I take these matters seriously, this is a serious issue and it is a security matter.”

Martin also addressed the recent joyriding incident in Cherry Orchard in which a Garda car was rammed, saying:

“I’ve already taken steps well in advance of what happened at Cherry Orchard, working with and Dara O’Brien to say we need to put additional resources to bank so yes, it’s a concern.”

“There’s a multilayered responses required to this in terms of both making sure we put services in and continue to add services and to empower the community to deal with this from a bottoms-up approach and to support the Gardaí in terms of resources,” he continued.

“We’ve dealt with similar episodes in the past in different locations around the country. There are ways of dealing with this, as I say in the multi layered way.”

When tackled on planned increases to PRSI as part of a major reform of the pensions system approved by Cabinet yesterday, the Taoiseach said it was a necessary measure to ensure long-term stability around a more equitable system.

“We have got to make sure that we have sustainability on pensions into the future. That’s for everybody,” he said.

“The social insurance fund is in surplus to the tune of about €3 billion, the predictions were that it would be in deficit. So we also need to put a qualifier that the actuarial assessments are not as precise as people will make them to be over a 30 year timeframe. That said, we have to be prudent, and we have to prepare for the future.”

With reporting by Lauren Boland and PA

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