Government unable to guarantee delivery on traffic corps election pledge

ALMOST two years after a dedicated traffic corps was first promised by the Government, neither the Department of Transport nor the Department of Justice can say when the measure will finally be introduced.

The Oireachtas Transport Committee was also told yesterday that the computer system for the Government's penalty points scheme promised by June is still far from being rolled out.

Officials from both Departments were unable to give any guarantees on either promise.

Committee chairman Eoin Ryan, of Fianna Fáil, criticised his Government colleagues for failing to introduce the traffic corps.

"Finance for a dedicated traffic corps should be ring-fenced and it should be rolled out because it works in other jurisdictions," he said pointing out that the cost of road deaths to society last year topped €727m.

The traffic corps along with a promise of 2,000 extra gardaí was central among the Coalition's pre-2002 election promises.

However, as road deaths continue to rise, Deputy Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy yesterday admitted to the committee that garda resources had been diverted from road safety to deal with Ireland's presidency of the European Union.

"There are times when our complete resources in Dublin Castle would be engaged in escort duty," the Deputy Commissioner said.

When asked how much the EU presidency may be affecting traffic duties superintendent Denis Fitzpatrick of the Garda National Traffic Bureau said it was difficult to quantify.

"I would say that definitely some of our resources have been deployed to EU-related duty," he said.

A Government spokesperson for the EU Presidency denied any garda resources had been siphoned away. "€7.5m in garda overtime was spent for the EU Presidency in addition to their normal budget. It's a matter for the guards to manage their resources," the spokesperson said.

Both Garda representatives declined to comment on reports that a lack of resources means they can only carry out a fraction of the road checks called for in the Government's road safety strategy.

The opposition accused the Government of continuing to under fund the gardaí while making empty promises to crack down on road deaths. Labour transport spokeswoman Róisín Shortall said that no progress had been made a full 16 months after Transport Minister Seamus Brennan promised to clamp down on the number of untrained provisional drivers.

"That's an intolerable situation," she said.

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