Belfast Telegraph

Friday 24 October 2014

Garda chief demands more funds to safeguard Queen

The Republic’s police chief has asked his cash-strapped government for more funding to bankroll a massive security operation after claims “Armageddon” would strike the Queen’s first visit there.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan was speaking after a rank-and-file police leader predicted disaster during the Queen's state visit unless €25m (£22.1m) could be found to plug a shortfall in security costs.

Last week’s announcement of the Queen’s visit in May came as hardline republicans promised to “escalate” their campaign against it, and coincided with a deteriorating security situation in Northern Ireland.

PJ Stone, general secretary of the Garda Representative Association (GRA), said policing budgets will not cover the planning, surveillance and intelligence gathering needed to cover both the Queen and US President Barack Obama's official trips next month.

Asked what would happen if the money could not be found, Mr Stone replied: “Then we are looking at Armageddon.”

Mr Stone said: “I don't think the Garda Siochana will be in a position to police those events given the resources that currently exist if there is not a separate budget for this venture.”

The Garda grassroots leader said when the force was allocated €1.4bn (£1.2bn) for its budget this year, nobody foresaw the expensive official state visits.

The Queen is to tour a number of historically significant sites during her trip, from May 17 to 20, including Croke Park — the scene of a massacre by British troops — and Dublin's Garden of Remembrance.

It will be the first official visit by a British sovereign to the Irish Republic.

Mr Stone said hundreds of millions of euro had been pumped into the PSNI as concerns mount about the increased threat from dissident republicans.

“We are not that fortunate here and we have to ensure that we don't take our eye off the ball in respect of issues of such importance,” he added.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said last night he asked the Irish Department of Justice to stump up the cash needed but refused to put a final figure on the expected security bill.

“It would be unreasonable in my view to expect that the Garda budget would sustain the type of pressure required to put a security operation of the magnitude we are about to put in place,” he said.

With the release of the itinerary of the Queen's tour last week, he said the force was now working out a costed budget.

The news prompted the Irish Security Industry Association (ISIA) — which represents private security companies in the Republic — to offer its help to the Garda Siochana.

The historic visit will also include events at Trinity College Dublin, the National War Memorial Gardens in Islandbridge, and the Guinness Storehouse.

Hardline republican group eirigi has said it will “escalate” its current campaign against the visit.

On Saturday, the group intends to stage a tasteless mock execution of the Queen outside Dublin’s General Post Office, which served as the headquarters of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising.

Spokesman Brian Leeson said: “The time of monarchy, imperialism and exploitation is well and truly past. Nothing makes that point quite as clearly as the guillotine.”

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