Gardai to review TDs' home security after Simon Harris waited 35 minutes for patrol car –

A sweeping review of Cabinet members’ security is under way after it emerged that there was a significantly delayed Garda response to a minister’s plea for protection from protesters, we can reveal.

Senior Garda sources have confirmed that it took 35 minutes for a patrol car to get to the family home of Health Minister Simon Harris two weeks ago, after he reported a protest outside his house.

Mr Harris has said his wife and three-week-old daughter were followed to their Wicklow house by protesters, who then stationed themselves outside the property for several hours.

Health Minister Simon Harris and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s homes were targeted by separate protest groups. Pic:

Now we can confirm that gardaí have contacted all Cabinet ministers to inform them that the force is carrying out a ‘root and branch’ review of ministerial security. And gardaí have already attended the homes of some ministers to conduct a review of their requirements.

However, ministers have told they believe these measures are ‘insufficient’ and that the State should provide 24-hour security at all ministers’ homes.

Last night, for a second consecutive Saturday, a group calling themselves ‘Yellow Vest’ protesters stood outside the apartment complex where Leo Varadkar lives. The group, who are different to those who held a silent protest at the home of Mr Harris, stood at the gates of the Castleknock apartment complex for about an hour.

Mr Varadkar, who is attending the EU-Arab League summit this weekend, was not at home.

Health Minister Simon Harris and his wife had just welcomed a newborn baby when their home was targeted by protesters. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was not home when his home was targeted. Pic: Marc O’Sullivan

The protest at Mr Harris’s home on Sunday, February 10, came after statements from groups, including one called ‘Bring it to their Doors’. Mr Harris labelled the action as ‘thuggery and intimidation’.

Garda sources confirmed that there was an issue with the availability of Garda patrol cars at that precise time. The response time of gardaí was deemed ‘wholly unacceptable’ by senior officers. An initial security overhaul was launched after the incident, which was widened after protests at the home of other Cabinet colleagues — including Education Minister Richard Bruton’s Dublin home last weekend, and the Taoiseach’s home address.

As the security review gets under way, some ministers privately want all Cabinet members to have State cars and Garda drivers, but are reluctant to say so publicly for fear of a political backlash.

Gardai to review TDs' home security after Simon Harris waited 35 minutes for patrol car -

Education Minister Richard Bruton, pictured with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, also had his home targeted. Pic: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Fine Gael removed Garda protection for all ministers, except for the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Justice Minister in 2011 to cut costs. But at a discussion of the issue at a recent Cabinet meeting concerns for safety were raised. One minister traced the security problems to the decision to get ‘rid of Garda cars’. However, there ‘was not general support’ for that proposal, one minister said.

A minister said that he understood that the local gardaí are doing all they can with the resources that they have.

Mr Harris did not raise the issue of the slow reaction time of the gardaí at Cabinet. It is senior members of the force that have made that an issue. A senior Garda source said: ‘The car that was needed the day of the incident at Mr Harris’s house was not immediately available and that is not acceptable.’

Gardai to review TDs' home security after Simon Harris waited 35 minutes for patrol car -

Protesters outside Education Minister Richard Bruton’s home. Pic: Facebook / Fingal Battalion Direct Action Group has confirmed gardaí have contacted all Cabinet ministers to inform them they are carrying out the review of ministerial security. Visits include asking ministers to outline their security needs, and to issue briefings on measures they can take. Officers have also promised ministers that there will a ‘more visible’ Garda presence near their homes.

‘I got a phone call last Monday,’ said one Cabinet minister. ‘[Gardaí] are conscious of the protesters that have targeted ministers. [They] will be keeping a very close eye on us.

‘A superintendent rang me. He asked, was I all right? Did I feel safe? He said that they will be keeping an eye on all the ministers and that he would be coming back to me with comprehensive advice on security. They also provided me with numbers of senior gardaí and emergency numbers.’

Gardai to review TDs' home security after Simon Harris waited 35 minutes for patrol car -

Justice Minister Charlie Flannigan with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Pic: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Another minister said that gardaí had come to his home. Government sources said that ‘there is supposed to be a heightened level of security around politicians and judges at the moment’.

One minister said: ‘There have been incidents at ministers’ houses two weekends in a row… Are we going to have another one? It is worrying.’

Former taoisigh John Bruton, Bertie Ahern, Brian Cowen and Enda Kenny all have Garda protection at their homes. They do not have the use of a Garda driver, however.

Gardai to review TDs' home security after Simon Harris waited 35 minutes for patrol car -

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan’s department said it would not comment on individual ministers’ cases. Pic: Leah Farrell/

A spokesperson for the Justice Minister said: ‘Arrangements may be put in place for the protection of office holders or other public figures and these are a matter for An Garda Síochána. For reasons of security, it is not the practice to comment on the details of any individual case or the arrangements that may be in place.’

A spokesperson for An Garda Síochána said: ‘An Garda Síochána do not comment on matters pertaining to the security of Government ministers.’

Last night, a spokesman for Mr Varadkar, said in relation to last night’s ‘Yellow Vest’ protest near his home that the Taoiseach ‘regretted’ any disruption to his neighbours.

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