Budget 2017: Gains for forensic science and gardaí but overtime cut

Funding to boost staffing levels in An Garda Síochána and the Courts Service and to bring forward the construction of a new forensic science laboratory are contained in the Budget 2017 allocation to the Department of Justice.

Budget 2017: Gains for forensic science and gardaí but overtime cut

But there has been a €20m drop in Garda overtime, used to fund special gangland, burglary, and terrorism operations.

This is despite an overall increase of €28m in current expenditure funding to the Garda Síochána, some €19m of which goes on salaries, driven by increasing staff numbers.

Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said there were no pay rises in Budget 2017 — apart from the Lansdowne Road Agreement, to avert impending Garda strike action.

Headline figures for Justice in Budget 2017 show:

  • 800 gardaí are being recruited in 2017 as well as 500 civilian Garda employees;
  • €71.5m is being provided for Garda overtime to facilitate the continuation of large-scale operations targeting gangland crime, burglary, and terrorism;
  • €30m extra is being provided to the courts, including €28m to build seven new courthouses (under public private partnership) and install new IT systems and recruit staff;
  • €6m in capital funding is being allocated to enable the commencement of construction of a new forensic science laboratory.

The Tánaiste said there is an overall rise of €85m in the total department’s budget to €2.54bn.

She said the annual recruitment of about 800 garda trainees would bring the force to 15,000 by the start of 2021 — factoring in the estimated 300 retirements a year.

Within the same time-frame, she plans to increase civilian staffing levels from 2,000 to 4,000 and Garda reservists from 800 to 2,000.

The Tánaiste said that due to increased capital allocation, the construction of the forensic science laboratory will “commence in 2017” and be completed in 2019, instead of starting in 2019 as under the capital investment plan, published in September 2016.

The Irish Examiner published correspondence from the Forensic Science Ireland director, Dr Sheila Willis, to the Department of Justice in which she criticised the time frame given the poor state of the current laboratory.

Yesterday, Dr Willis welcomed the announcement: “This is very good news for the management and staff of FSI. The current facility is unsuitable for modern science practices and it is vital that a new laboratory starts as soon as possible.”

Ms Fitzgerald acknowledged that the €71.5m allocation to Garda overtime compared to around €91.5m for this year.

She said there were security costs associated with once-off visits this year, including that of Prince Charles.

The Tánaiste pointed out that 600 probationary gardaí are coming on stream this year and that the overtime bill would be kept under review.

She said last year’s allocation started at €41m, before being increased with the Kinahan-Hutch feud.

Other funding increases include: Data Protection Commissioner (+€2.8m), the Probation Service (+€2m) and the Legal Aid Board (+€4m).

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