The National Transport Authority (NTA) and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) paid a combined total of €911,449.02 to An Garda Síochána to police transportation matters since 2015, according to two Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.
Both agencies paid through non-public duty payments, which are payments made to Gardaí to monitor events that wouldn’t normally fall under their public service remit, such as music festivals or football matches.
Non-public duty payments are typically worked as overtime – patrolling bus lanes and policing traffic at road works were just some of the services Gardaí provided to the NTA and the TII.
Over the course of two consecutive days — 31 December 2015 and 1 January 2016 — TII paid Gardaí a total of €696,017.60, amounting for the bulk of total payments over five years, for “Luas works”, according to the FOI obtained by the Dublin Commuters Coalition.
Some councillors have raised concerns over the need for public transport agencies to pay Gardaí for these services in the first place, and are calling for greater transparency surrounding the spending of taxpayers money.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland
TII is the public body which oversees national roads infrastructure and light rail projects such as the Luas and the proposed MetroLink train.
According to documents obtained under two FOIs, TII paid €836,537.60 over five years to An Garda Síochána.
Of the 14 non-public duty payments TII made to Gardaí in that time, nine separate payments were dated over two days.
On one day, 31 December 2015, TII paid Gardaí €402,897.60 on policing “Luas works” according to the FOI.
The next day, 1 January 2016, TII made a payment of €293,120 to Gardaí for Luas works too.
A separate FOI document obtained from the website of An Garda Síochána shows that non-public duty policing of the Electric Picnic music festival in Stradbally, Laois from 1-3 September 2017 cost €307,980.
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for TII said via email that the requirement to keep the city open for business, and reduce impact on traffic, “necessitated a commitment beyond the normal”.
Policing the traffic during this time should not have to impact resources from Gardaí, the TII spokesperson said.
“It would not have been reasonable or appropriate to expect the Gardaí to provide this vital support from their own resources,” the spokesperson said.
These payments are “on a cost-reimbursable basis” both spokespeople for the NTA and the TII said.
However, they did not respond to a follow-on question asking them to detail what instances they get reimbursed and by how much.
NTA Pockets Take a Hit
In Dublin, the NTA is responsible for overseeing the provision of Dublin Bus, BusConnects and various transport planning projects.
Since 2015 it paid €74,911.42 to An Garda Síochána in non-public duty payments according to a Dublin Commuters Coalition FOI request and another FOI request made in January.
In May 2015, it paid an undisclosed amount to Gardaí to stop cars driving in the bus lanes at College Green during the building of the Luas Cross City project.
According to correspondence between Hugh Creegan, the director of transport investment for the NTA , and Derek Tierney from the Department of Transport, dated 16 April 2018, illegal use of bus lanes at College Green was a “significant issue” in 2015.
“[…] in May 2015, we found over 500 cars, vans and trucks breaching the bus lane restrictions on a daily basis by driving through College Green during the bus gate hours,” said Creegan.
“To deal with this issue we had to arrange to have Garda resources in College Green virtually each day during the construction period,” he said.
Creegan says in relation to the BusConnects programme, which will require in “excess”, of €1 billion to deliver, “it will be vital it’s [BusConnects] benefits are not eroded by the absence of enforcement”, and that there is evidence that illegal use of bus lanes are increasing.
Due to staffing issues, Gardaí were only available to police the bus lane on a voluntary overtime basis and “substantial costs”were incurred as a result, Creegan writes.
Says Creegan: “A personnel focussed enforcement method using Garda officers is not necessarily an efficient approach when dealing with a geographically widespread network.”
Is This the Best Way?
“Surely that is just the guards’ day-to-day job,” says Fianna Fáil Councillor Keith Connolly.
Gardaí being paid to police traffic seems bizarre, he says, “unless it’s, say for example, the Homecoming [GAA] in Dublin. You obviously have to pay the guards money to do security.”
Independent Councillor Mannix Flynn, who is a member of the Dublin City Council Transportation Strategic Policy Committee, said “it’s not satisfactory that these agencies are handing over taxpayer money to An Garda Síochána without a full breakdown.”
Flynn says that there should be more transparency around non-public duty payments. “How much is it to hire a Garda for the day? The general public might want to avail of that service.”
Towards the end of the letter obtained under FOI, Hugh Creegan from the NTA says that camera-based enforcement for traffic violations could be a better way to police traffic violations in the city.
“International practice is that camera-based enforcement is used extensively for bus lane and junction enforcement,” he says.
In this scenario, it would then be up to the transport agency, such as the NTA, to prosecute the offenders and lift responsibility from the police, Creegan said.
In the meantime, there is a possibility that the NTA and the TII will have to keep paying non-public duty payments to An Garda Síochána with upcoming projects such as BusConnects, MetroLink, and plans to extend the Luas to Finglas.
“[…] circumstances requiring such arrangements could occur in the future , particularly when construction takes place in the city centre or impacts routes that carry heavy traffic,” a spokesperson for the TII said.
A spokesperson for the NTA says that they have no plans to pay An Garda Síochána for more non-public duty payments but “circumstances requiring such arrangements are likely to occur in the future”.
An Garda Síochána did not respond to any of the questions that were sent to them last Thursday 2 July.