Coveney State car costing €200,000 a year
- Decision to retain Garda car and drivers for fourth Minister not signed off on by Cabinet
After it was confirmed to Labour Leader Alan Kelly TD in the Dáil today that there was no Cabinet decision to award a State car with two Garda drivers costing €200,000 a year to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Taoiseach needs to clarify who made the decision to allow the car to be retained, why it was not approved by Cabinet, and will An Garda Síochána be reimbursed for the €1m cost of this over the lifetime of the government.
Deputy Kelly said:
“In 2011 the then government made a decision to abolish State cars with Garda drivers for all but three members of the Government. Only the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister for Justice are allowed State cars. It was confirmed to me by the Taoiseach today that no decision was made by the Cabinet to allow Minister Coveney retain a State car with two Garda drivers.
“Information provided to me in response to a parliamentary question shows the annual cost of each State car for a government minister is approximately €200,000.
“The Government decision of 2011 still stands, but it now appears that the outgoing Tánaiste held on to his State car when he left that office. Who made that decision? Was it made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs himself?
“It is not clear on what authority does a Minister get to go against a previous Cabinet decision, and why was this all decided orally without any paper or decision trail?
“Correspondence provided to me in response to my question indicates that on Sunday 28th June, the Secretary General of the Department of Justice received a query from the Secretary to the Government as to whether it was appropriate on security grounds for Minister Coveney to retain his Garda driver. This in tun was communicated to An Garda Síochána by phone.
“Such a phone call to An Garda Síochána leaves them in a very difficult position, how can they say no to officials when the request is coming from the highest level of government? At no point was the garda car ceded by the outgoing Tánaiste.
“An administrative fix was found, but no cabinet decision was made, and the government is now hiding behind security advice. Over the lifetime of this government the cost to An Garda Síochána will be €1 million for the Minister. Will additional funding be provided to our police force to cover this?
“This government has lost the run of itself, awarding itself pay rises, then pay cuts; aide de camps, extra Garda cars, and additional special advisers. It has left itself open to ridicule at a time when the country needs responsible government.”