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27 Jun 2022

€1.57m Garda overtime spend in Longford as officer numbers fall

€1.57m Garda overtime spend in Longford as officer numbers fall

More than €1.5m of taxpayers money has been spent on garda overtime since 2019 in Co Longford with new figures showing resource levels having declined as opposed to increased over the past three and a half years.

The documents, which were obtained on Monday by the Leader under the auspices of the Freedom of Information Act show how approximately €1.57m has been paid to gardaí for overtime costs since the start of 2019.

The largest annual outlay came last year when over €470,000 was set aside to cover additional hours gardaí had spent across both Longford and Granard garda districts on official duty.

That figure looks set to be matched or perhaps exceeded this year with almost €240,000 already used up in overtime expenses up until the end of May.

In a further revelation, the Leader can also reveal how the number of officers on the pay rosters of both districts have, in fact, reduced since 2019 when issues linked to a gradual rise in feud related activity across the county began to take shape.

According to figures released by garda chiefs, both Longford and Granard’s overall officer count has lessened from a combined total of 141 to 139 across both districts inclusive.

The biggest fall off appears to have arisen in Longford, with 90 officers accounted for in May of this year compared to the 102 which were in situ in Longford just two years earlier.

There have also been a total of eight retirements recorded over the aforementioned three and a half year period across both districts.

Details surrounding the figures have been met with dismay at local political level with a number of local representatives reiterating a desire for increased garda resources.

“I have repeatedly called for increased garda resources and for six additional gardaí for Longford town,” said Longford-Westmeath Fianna Fáil TD Joe Flaherty, who said he had “no issue” with overtime spending given the dearth of garda numbers within the Longford district.

“It has been made known to the Minister (of Justice, Helen McEntee) of the need for greater garda numbers and she is aware of it and while I appreciate allocation and personnel is a matter for the Garda Commissioner, it is incumbent on the Minister to bring pressure to bear on the Commissioner to ensure adequate garda resources are allocated to Longford.”

The Longford based TD said the issues facing garda management in being able to adequately police the greater Longford area was even more alarming as the figures didn’t account officers currently sidelined and unable to take up official duties.

“The numbers are actually much lower as they don’t take account of those that are on long term sick leave, on restricted duty or desk duty,” he added.

His party colleague and former Joint Policing Committee chairperson Cllr Seamus Butler followed suit and warned of how the figures now posed a challenge to the workings of a recently set up community safety partnership in dealing with crime at a local level.

“The one thing that the figures don’t take into account is the number of people on long term sick leave and if you add that into the mix we are well under the numbers required to properly police, especially the Longford town area that has problems which require greater garda visibility,” he said.

“It actually makes the situation worse and if we don’t address these then the whole pilot of the community safety partnership scheme is going to be called into question.”

Longford Fine Gael Senator Micheál Carrigy said he remained confident Longford was in line for favourable news in terms of additional garda resources and heaped praise on the inroads detectives were making in tackling the county’s feud related problems.

“I spoke on the matter last Thursday (in the Seanad) and I thought the minister gave a very positive response,” he said.

“There are a number of accreditations that are due to come from Templemore (Garda Training College) and I am confident that we will get some of those accreditations.”

The Leader attempted to make contact with a Garda spokesperson, but at the time of writing, there was no response.

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