€100k garda bill for bridge protest

Taxpayers are being hit with a bill of more than €100,000 as extra gardaí have been drafted in to police a six-week long protest over the building of a new bridge in Kilkenny city.

€100k garda bill for bridge protest

Building of the multi- million euro bridge over the river Nore, know as the Central Access Scheme (CAS), began on June 27, but protests by community groups have increased since then with a peaceful presence at the site there 24-hours a day seven days a week.

Garda costs are expected to spiral even further as building continues.

Protesters believe the scheme will damage Kilkenny’s medieval heritage.

Over the past nine days, up to 35 gardaí from stations across the south-east have been drafted in to escort equipment being moved from the works site close to Green’s Bridge, on average twice a day — morning and afternoon.

High ranking garda sources dealing with the situation said officers are being taken away from duties where they are badly needed.

“A conservative bill of €110,000 has been clocked up so far since extra gardaí have been needed to escort the movement of equipment on and off the site. This has been happening for around 10 days now — meaning each day it’s costing €11,500 to have officers at the site,” one garda source said. “This is only the early stages of the building process — this situation could deteriorate when the heavier work begins.

“That figure doesn’t take into account over-time and expenses. Work on the scheme is behind time due to the protests which is also adding an extra cost on Kilkenny County Council of €460,000.

“This protest is eating up the garda budget for the year and taking officers away from other duties. The garda strategy for dealing with the protestors has to be proportionate, necessary and accountable.

“There is a thin line between peaceful protest and obstruction. There is a Health and Safety issue to what the protestors are doing. We have to also pre-brief and pre-train are officers to deal with this situation. We have to be accountable to the Garda Ombudsman.”

The Garda Assistant Commissioner for the region has also visited Kilkenny as the impasse continues.

News of the escalating costs associated with the building of the new bridge comes as two men were arrested on Tuesday over public order offences at the site. Both men were released without charge.

The garda source added that further arrests could be inevitable if the current situation does not ease.

A review of the current situation is to be carried out by the Garda and the county council next month.

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