Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Shatter firm on security staff cash

Alan Shatter says former leaders like Bertie Ahern can afford their own security
Alan Shatter says former leaders like Bertie Ahern can afford their own security

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has claimed former taoisigh like Bertie Ahern earn enough money from the State to pay for their own security.

Following revelations that Mr Ahern has been victimised in a number of hate attacks - including an alleged assault in a Dublin pub, the minister ruled out any review by Government for providing protection to one-time politicians.

"There are some former taoisigh who are receiving very substantial sums of money from the State who, I would think should they need an independent driver or some additional security, are in a position to arrange that themselves," Mr Shatter said.

The minister said he relies on advice from gardai as to what security measures are required by former taoisigh.

Mr Ahern, who receives a State pension of around 135,000 euro, was allegedly attacked by a man wielding a crutch in a city centre pub on Friday.

Mr Shatter pointed out that the Government made a decision when it was fresh in office to limit the number of Garda cars used in politics.

"It was determined that it wasn't necessary that former taoisigh be driven by members of An Garda Siochana," he said.

"There are only three ministers, three members of Cabinet who for security reasons are provided with Garda cars with drivers - that's the Taoiseach, the Tanaiste and myself as Minister for Justice for security reasons."

Mr Shatter said he understands people are "angry and upset" by decisions made by former taoiseach Mr Ahern and his Government, but it is important that they obey the law.

"There are tens of thousands of people in this country suffering the consequences of decisions made," he said.

"But that doesn't mean that any member of any previous Government should be the object of any physical attack or any unlawful conduct by any individual."

Mr Shatter said people have the right to go about their lives and that gardai will act appropriately should anyone act unlawfully

He said he would in no way condone "any individual being the object of any assault".

The minister rejected any suggestion that the removal of Garda cars from former taoisigh in 2011 had anything to do with the alleged attack on Mr Ahern.

"I don't think any of these issues that I have been reading about have any relevance to anybody being driven anywhere," he said.

He added: "At an early stage in the lifetime of this Government a decision was made that it wasn't necessary for the State on an ongoing basis to provide a car and a Garda driver to former taoisigh.

"The decision was made to withdraw the facility from former taoisigh."

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