Monday, March 13, 2006


Monday Madness - Garda errands!

How do you explain this, President? Just when you thought Irish politics couldn't possibly get any more scandalous, up pops this story from the Sunday Independent.

In an exclusive, they report that highly trained gardai are routinely being used to run domestic errands for Government ministers and the President as well as acting as a taxi service for their family members.

As well as providing protection to the President and Cabinet ministers, garda drivers and special branch officers are being asked to drop children to school, fetch shopping and even drive family members to concerts - all paid for by taxpayers out of a special €5m annual budget.

The practice has been going on secretly for years. But last night, after the Sunday Independent revealed widespread abuses of the privilege, TDs and rank and file gardai called for a complete overhaul of the system.

Some ministers have used their garda drivers to collect pizzas and drop children to piano lessons, while one minister sent a garda car to drop his child to a music concert and bring them home afterwards.

The Sunday Independent also reveal the interesting example of Emma McAleese, the 24-year-old daughter of the President, who is regularly dropped off at her workplace in central Dublin by a garda driver.

Despite being largely anonymous and having no apparent security risk attached to her, Emma McAleese is often taxied to work by gardai who are supposed to provide 24-hour armed special branch cover to her mother. A senior Garda spokesman last night said:
"Nobody is assigned a driver as a chauffeur. It depends completely on the security risk to the individual.

"If the VIP is moving, they'll drive. If they're static, they continue to provide protection. It is the protection we are providing, not a chauffeur service," the spokesman said

But no garda is assigned to Emma McAleese during her working or social hours, which appears to clearly show there is no security issue for the president's daughter that requires 24-hour protection.

The President's office has claimed it was a matter for senior gardai. A statement said:

"We do not comment on security-related matters. The deployment of garda resources is a matter for Garda management."

But rank and file gardai are furious, saying their profession is demeaned by the rampant practice of using garda drivers to run errands and act as a taxi service.

Some fear that the garda driver would be "hung out to dry" if something were to happen to their charge while they were away "working as taxi drivers".

One garda said: "These guards are doing menial tasks that could, in most cases, be done by civilians."

It gets worse. The Sunday Independent has the identities of a number of ministers and former taoisigh who also take full advantage of the expensive perk. These include:

* One minister who has dispatched his garda driver to ferry his grown-up son to concerts and orders the garda to wait outside the venue until the young man is ready for his lift home.

* The daughter of a minister who is often escorted to various sporting events around the country.

* A former minister's wife who was driven to the supermarket to do her weekly shopping by her husband's garda driver.

* A former minister who, while in office, sent his garda driver to pick up pizzas and videos for his children's entertainment.

There were calls last night for the entire system to be "overhauled" in the wake of the Sunday Independent investigation, and questions will be put to the Taoiseach in the Dail this week.

Labour Justice spokesman Joe Costello said:

"Garda drivers have official duties to perform and they should not be considered a family resource to be used as chauffeurs. Obviously the gardai are being very flexible in the duties they perform, but it gives out the wrong message for an official State car, paid for by the taxpayer, to be used as a babysitting or taxi service. It demeans the garda and it demeans the office."

"It is up to the Taoiseach to ensure his ministers do not abuse this privilege."

Unbelievable stuff. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a complete and utter farce. I mean, I've heard of abuses of privilege before but this takes some beating!

To protect and serve...and get the groceries
Guards are being wasted

I commend Joe Costello for bringing the matter up with the Taoiseach. I can't wait to hear his explanation for it!

What a dreadful waste this is of police manpower. We're hearing constant reports of people being shot in Dublin and yet we have garda officers forced to ferry Ministers and their families around to sports events, concerts etc. It's lunacy. Total lunacy.

The buck should surely stop with McDowell though over this rather than the Taoiseach, don't you think? He is the Justice Minister after all. In relation to criticism of Mr McDowell on gun crime, Arts Minister John O'Donoghue yesterday said:

"I’m quite satisfied that the Minister for Justice today is seeking to do all he can to deal with that problem."

Well, Mr Donoghue, when I read the bullshit tasks that the gardaí are being forced to do, I must say I am certainly NOT satisfied that he is doing all he can with the problem!

This whole issue is just a mess. In my post below I focused on Seamus Brennan's remarks that Irish people are becoming more selfish, impatient and arrogant.

Do you think he might have been talking about his colleagues?

Once again several Irish politicians stick two fingers up at the people who elected them. Enjoy your week-long break for St Patrick's Day, guys.


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