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Justice budget rises to record €3 billion to cover virus costs
Ministers Paschal Donohoe and Michael McGrath Pic: RollingNews.ie

13 Oct 2020 / justice Print

Justice budget tops €3bn as virus costs escalate

The Government has allocated an extra €147 million in funding to the Department of Justice and Equality as part of a massive budget package totalling almost €18 billion.

This represents an increase of 6% on 2020 and brings the department’s total budget to a record €3 billion.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath said €27 million of the new allocation would go towards measures linked to COVID-19.

Extra courts costs

A breakdown shows that €13 million of this will go towards personal protective equipment (PPE) for gardaí, while €5.7 million each is earmarked for the Courts Service and the Irish Prison Service.

Extra COVID-19 court costs include additional premises in Dublin and regional locations to enable court sittings to take place in a socially-distanced and safe environment.

There are also significant Courts Service costs linked to added security, crowd management, and additional cleaning and maintenance.

The new funding will allow up to 620 gardaí to be recruited next year, with 500 extra civilian staff for administrative roles. And €7.5 million will go towards improving the Garda fleet, including the purchase of new vehicles.

Technology

Minister McGrath said an extra €50 million in capital spending would be used to improve technology for the courts and the gardaí, and to help infrastructure projects including those at Limerick Prison and the new Forensic Science Ireland laboratory in County Kildare.

The new money will bring the total capital budget for the department to just over €258 million.

And €8 million will be provided to the Dublin Coroner to carry out an inquest in relation to the Stardust fire tragedy while €2 million will go towards increasing staffing levels at the Data Protection Commission.

O'Malley Report

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee welcomed the funding, saying she was also in “advanced discussions” with Minister McGrath on securing additional funding for the remainder of 2020 which would allow gardaí to immediately increase their fleet of vehicles, to fund overtime, and to buy extra PPE and other equipment to help with COVID-19 and wider policing.

The budget includes funding for the implementation of the recommendations of the O’Malley Report on Protections for Vulnerable Witnesses in the Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Offences.

Minister McEntee said she would publish a detailed plan in the coming weeks on how the recommendations of the O’Malley Report would be implemented.

Business supports

Earlier Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said €8.5 billion of the Budget 2021 package would go towards public services, with €3.4 billion also earmarked for a new recovery fund focused on infrastructure, retraining and jobs.

Among a number of measures aimed at supporting businesses is a new scheme designed for those whose trade has been significantly impacted or temporarily closed as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. The scheme will generally operate when level three restrictions or higher are in place.

The Government will make a payment to such businesses based on their 2019 average weekly turnover. The scheme will be effective from today (13 October) to 31 March 2021, and the first payments will be made by mid-November.

Minister Donohoe said the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme would continue until the end of 2021, but the Government would decide on the exact form it would take when the economic picture became clearer.

The tax warehousing scheme will also be extended to include repayments of Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) funds owed by employers and preliminary tax obligations for the adversely affected self-employed.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland