Credit: Gript

The very odd €5,000 “security” payment to TDs

There is nothing wrong – and in fact almost everything right – in providing elected Irish officials with better security. Becoming a TD is no longer, in Ireland, the vastly attractive job that it once was. Some readers will recoil from this point, but it needs to be made: In the 1980s and 1970s in Ireland to become a TD was to earn a salary that put you in the top 1% or so of earners and instantaneously made you part of the country’s elite. Today, you are out-earned by thousands of doctors, barristers, company executives, architects, engineers, public relations consultants, NGO chief executives, and the list goes on. While being a TD is still a lucrative gig, the relative attractiveness of the job, compared to other professions, has indisputably fallen. If you don’t believe me, just look at the ongoing exodus of relatively young politicians who are exiting the business before the next election.

And by the way, if you’re one of those people who think our current crop of politicians are a relatively unimpressive bunch, do consider that factor: There was a time when politics was one of the most lucrative ways to have your talents rewarded. Today, there are many other, much low profile ways of earning that much money and not suffering the hassle of the job.

Part of that hassle is undoubtedly related to security. Whatever one’s political views, the advance of the internet has made politicians both more accessible, and more vulnerable. They are routinely subjected to verbal abuse online, and it is no surprise that many of them on all sides of the two houses of the Oireachtas would fear that abuse escalating to the “real” world.

That such abuse comes from all sides towards all sides is also self evident: Some of the most relentlessly abused politicians in Ireland are opposition voices like Ronán Mullen and Sharon Keogan.

The equation is simple enough: If we want good and capable people in politics, they need to feel safe, rewarded, and that what they are doing is worthwhile. Keeping our politicians safe is an investment in the health of our democracy, and we should not begrudge a single penny spent on it.

All of which is a long preamble to asking: What on earth is this?

THE GOVERNMENT HAVE approved a new once-off allowance for politicians to reimburse their security costs, with TDs and Senators able to claim up to €5,000.

Cabinet this morning agreed to introduce a Security Requirements Allowance for TDs and Senators after consultations with the Attorney General.

The allowance will allow politicians to claim back up to 50% of their personal security costs, to the maximum value of €5,000. The allowance would be a once-off, vouched expense.

The allowance will cover TDs and Senators improving the security of their staff, homes and offices, but requires a security review to be carried out by a member of An Garda Síochána.

Gardaí have provided some suggestions as to what politicians can have installed, including CCTV cameras, panic buttons and intruder alarms.

There’s no question of corruption here – it’s a vouched expense. Not one that some cute hoor TD can stick in his back pocket, like some other expenses are. The issues are not with the amount – which is actually quite miserly – but the process.

The security of public officials should not in reality be a matter for public officials themselves. We have a situation here effectively where the state is telling people who work for it that their security is optional, and they have to pay for half of it themselves. One might have thought that the security of TDs would be the direct duty of the Gardai, and that the costs of providing it would be fully covered by the state. This is not an either/or, by the way – the public have a right to be protected and receive proper policing as well, and this column is not suggesting that garda resources be diverted. It is suggesting that they be increased, for both state security and public security.

As it is, we have a system where people who choose to enter politics will be told that if they want to get a house alarm, the state will pay for half the cost of it, providing a garda “reviews” their security. Other words for this might be “half assed”. It is part of a pattern of half-assed approaches to security, including the country’s lack of any meaningful defence capabilities, and our entirely toothless national cyber threat centre.

Instead of providing politicians with effective security against threats that are real, the state is instead trying to criminalise threats that are not real: We are introducing a range of measures targeting speech and protests and public dissent, at the same time as investing basically nothing in protecting politicians against actual threats.

I know that many readers will disagree here, on the evergreen basis that every penny given to TDs is a penny wasted, but for me this is the demarcation line of a serious country. If we want better decisions, we need better politicians. If we want better politicians, we need to make the job more attractive.

This measure does not do that. It’s the classic Irish political solution – do somethingism. “We should probably do something about that. This is something. We’ll do that”.

I doubt anyone will feel even a little safer as a result.

Share mdi-share-variant mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-printer mdi-chevron-left Prev Next mdi-chevron-right Related
Comments are closed

Do you support the Governments plans to put calorie labels on wine bottles?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...