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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 7 Mar 1961

Vol. 187 No. 1

Vote No. 24—Garda Síochána.

I move:

That a supplementary sum not exceeding £437,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1961, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Garda Síochána including Pensions, etc. (9 & 10 Geo. 5, c. 68; No. 25 of 1924; No. 7 of 1925; No. 10 of 1926; No. 32 of 1933; No. 5 of 1937; No. 19 of 1941; Nos. 1 and 17 of 1945; No. 41 of 1947; No. 44 of 1956; and No. 43 of 1959) and for payments of compensation and other expenses arising out of service in the Local Security Force (No. 19 of 1946 and No. 15 of 1949).

The additional sum is required mainly to provide for additional expenditure resulting from increases in rates of Garda pay and allowances. A sum of £427,000 is needed to meet the cost of the pay award, granted with effect from 1st March, 1960 which followed the acceptance by the Government in full of the findings of the Garda Arbitration Board on a claim for pay increases. A further net charge on Subhead A of £63,000 is due to the acceptance of a recommendation by the Garda Conciliation Council for the abolition of the non-pensionable rent allowance and the establishment in lieu of a consolidated rate of pay. The implementation of other recommendations by the Council has meant additional expenditure of £4,860 in respect of increases in the allowances payable to members who use their own bicycles on duty and to Inspectors and Officers who are required to own and use their motor cars; another £4,000 is needed to meet an increase of 50 per cent. granted during the year in the rates of allowances payable for cleaning of public offices in Garda stations. Also the necessity to maintain and extend the services of a large number of Garda on the Border involved expenditure additional to estimated requirements on the purchase of wireless and technical equipment.

The cost of those items as well as the preliminary expenses in connection with the introduction of the police dog service amounted to nearly £10,000. Altogether the total additional sum required is £508,850 but savings on other Subheads and a surplus in the receipts which are appropriated-in-aid of the Vote have contributed to reducing the total to a net sum of £437,000.

I do not think any of us would wish to discuss the whole question of the Garda Estimate on this Supplementary Estimate which is largely to implement an arbitration or a conciliation award. I should like to renew a representation I made to the Minister recently in Supplementary Questions.

Under the new award, the single Garda will in future pay £1 a week instead of a rent allowance where he avails of accomodation in the Garda station. One could make a very strong case that the accomodation in certain Garda stations is primitive. It will take some time to put that to rights. I trust the Minister will move expeditiously to improve the amenities where Gardaí live.

Where Gardaí are living in, they should have hot and cold water on tap. It is not reasonable to take £1 a week from a young Garda coming out from the Depot when, if he wants to shave or wash his face, the only water available is from a cold water tap or the local stream. Many people get along fine with drawing water from the well; that is their own business. They are living in their own homes. If they do not want to avail of schemes to bring running water into their kitchens, that is their business.

We have decided to turn some Gardaí into tenants of the State on payment by them of £1 per week. Where men are required by the terms of their employment to be tenants of the State, they are entitled to stipulate certain minimal requirements. The first is that they may be enabled to keep themselves up to the standard of neatness and cleanliness of the Garda Síochána which has been the admiration of our own people and of strangers. They should have reasonable facilities to maintain that standard. In 1961, that involves hot and cold water. With universal electrification of rural Ireland, even if there are not facilities for tanks in the roof and such other amenities, electric geysers could quite easily be installed over the basin or the bath. Water supplies for most Garda stations are already available. If they are not, they should be made available by appropriate pumping facilities such as are commonly purchased by country people under schemes operated by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Local Government.

If Gardaí must sleep in beds provided by us, the beds should be of a size into which they can fit longitudinally. They should be of a quality which will enable them to lie on them without counting the slats. That is not an unreasonable stipulation. These minimal requirements cannot be made available without a 6½-foot bed and either an interior spring mattress or a Dunlopillo mattress. I had to resolve this problem in connection with the establishment of short-term courses for agricultural students at Athenry. There was a question of providing facilities which would induce country boys to spend a fortnight or a month at Athenry. It was generally agreed that unless reasonable sleeping accommodation was provided, the boys would not come to stay. We scrapped the existing antediluvian equipment and provided them with beds of adequate length and reasonable comfort which contributed very materially to the advantage of the college.

I mention these two specific points not because I think they are the only matters requiring reform in connection with Garda accomodation, but because I think they are matters that could be promptly attended to, which would be evidence on our part of our readiness to approach this problem, if not generously, at least justly. I have no doubt there will be a view expressed in the Garda that the suggestion I make now is grotesquely inadequate. That may or may not be, but at least it is a specific proposal which it would be possible for the Minister to implement without delay. It is for that reason I avail of the Supplementary Estimate to bring the matter to the Minister's attention again.

I should like to add my voice to that of the Leader of the Opposition to ask the Minister to improve conditions generally in the barracks down the country. I have been told—I cannot vouch for the truth of it—that the members of the Force are not even allowed to improve their conditions within the barracks. I should like to know from the Minister if that is true, that they cannot provide beds of their own and other personal conveniences because they are prohibited from doing so by regulation.

The other point I have is in connection with the rent allowance mentioned by the Minister. I should like the Minister to let me know if it is true that a Garda retiring at present after, say, 30 years' service will get 30 per cent. more pension than a Garda who had 38 years' service and who had to retire on the age limit prior to the last occasion pensions and allowances were fixed? If such is the case—perhaps it may not be appropriate to deal with it now, but I am just mentioning it—I would ask the Minister to look into it, as a glaring injustice seems to have been done to the older members of the Force.

I know that conditions all round are reasonably good, so far as the Garda Síochána are concerned. I have no doubt that in parts of rural Ireland there are Garda stations where the conditions are, perhaps, no better than those in the ordinary residential farms round about. I feel that in cases of that kind Gardai stationed in such places can, and in some cases do, make reasonable efforts to create for themselves the amenities to which Deputy Dillon referred.

Do the regulations permit it?

I do not think there is any regulation to prevent the Garda making conditions easier for themselves.

In furnishing amenities at their own expense?

No, I do not think so. If a Garda wants to purchase something for his own comfort, there is no regulation I know of to prevent him.

A good bed, for instance?

That is a matter for himself.

I am told they are not allowed?

I am not aware of that. I would be rather surprised if there is a regulation preventing that.

The Minister might inquire into it.

There may be some regulations; but whether they would prevent a man installing, say, a Dunlopillo mattress if he so desired, I cannot say. However, I doubt very much if anyone would prevent his doing so, even if the regulations were there.

Why should he have to do it?

I cannot understand why he should. It must be remembered that the conditions which exist in Garda stations are not of yesterday's or today's making. They are there for a considerable time. There are regulations providing for the replacement of such things as bedding and utensils in use in the various stations. I do not think any of the rural stations have anything like hot water circulation systems, for instance. In certain of the new stations being built, efforts are being made to instal that type of equipment.

I have examined quite a number of Garda buildings. I have not been completely satisfied and I have made myself clear to the authorities on the conditions I have found. I have recommended certain improvements and I know that these improvements have been, in fact, carried out. When the question of the rent allowance was being discussed at conciliation level the Garda Representative Body were 100 per cent. in favour of that scheme. It was described at the time as a "package deal" that would benefit the vast majority of the members of the Force. I have no doubt, as I said in reply to a Question, that some members would suffer to some small extent as against the benefits which would be secured by others. But that is something that operates in the case of nearly every bargain made.

Generally speaking, I can assure the House that the conditions of the Garda Síochána have not deteriorated in any respect. There will be improvements in the future, especially in those places where we are erecting new buildings. Generally, the conditions in the main Garda stations are good; though in the smaller ones they are not, perhaps, up to the same standard.

Vote put and agreed to.