JUSTICE Minister Dermot Ahern says he has “the wit” to find another way of saving money rather than closing 350 Garda stations.
“I don’t think it’s beyond the wit of myself to find €1 million in the department,” he told the Dáil yesterday.
The Bord Snip group, chaired by economist Colm McCarthy, recommended closing half of the country’s 703 Garda stations to save €1m.
The recommendation provoked the fury of the opposition, with Labour leader Eamon Gilmore raising the issue again in the Dáil earlier this week.
Mr Gilmore insisted the Government could find other ways of saving €1m, such as abolishing two junior ministerial posts.
That provoked Tánaiste Mary Coughlan’s admission that “many” of the Bord Snip proposals did not make sense.
But Finance Minister Brian Lenihan subsequently stamped his authority on the issue, insisting the Bord Snip report remained “key to budgetary strategy”.
Mr Lenihan stressed that if individual departments did not want to implement the report’s recommendations, they would have to provide alternative ways of saving money.
Mr Ahern indicated yesterday he would do exactly that – find an alternative – rather than implement the recommendation to shut so many stations.
“In relation to the proposal about the Garda stations, I noticed in the McCarthy report that the proposed saving was €1m to close 350 Garda stations – half the Garda stations.”
“I don’t think it’s beyond the wit of this minister to save €1m within a budget of €2.5bn, albeit I have to say 70% of it is probably difficult to touch because that’s the wages for the gardaí and the prison officers and indeed the departmental staff.
“But as I say, I don’t think it’s beyond the wit of myself to find €1m in the department,” he added.
The suggestion of station closures was part of a package of proposals in the Bord Snip report aimed at cutting €5.3bn from public spending.
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