Irish Examiner

Covid negatively impacted women’s working status

■ Officers paid for being on duty in two places at the same time

- Elaine Loughlin Deputy Political Editor

Women are more likely to have reduced working hours, suffer job losses, or leave the labour market as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Dáil has heard.

A debate on the impact of the pandemic on women heard of a worrying increase in domestic violence, a jump in referrals of those with eating disorders, and a rise in mental health issues.

Junior minister Anne Rabbitte said we are “only codding ourselves” if we think we have achieved equality in this country and pointed to the marked under-representa­tion of women in politics.

Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman said there is now evidence that women’s labour market participat­ion is impacted to a greater degree by the pandemic that men’s.

“Women are over-represente­d in the sectors which have been badly affected in the pandemic,” he said, adding that women are more likely to lose their jobs or have hours cut.

“This may be a temporary pattern, but recovery of the female labour market after earlier periods of lockdown has been slower than that of men.

“If this pattern persists, it could have long-term implicatio­ns for the female employment rate, for women’s progressio­n and pay in general, and for the gender pay gap.”

Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns noted a 35% increase in calls to the West Cork Women Against Domestic Violence helpline since Covid. She warned that domestic violence has now become “the shadow pandemic”.

Solidarity-PBP TD Bríd Smith added that more is spent by the State each year on the horse racing industry than on supports for those impacted by domestic violence.

An official audit of Garda payroll found that some officers were paid for performing duties at different locations at the same time.

The report also said the health and safety of officers and the public were placed at “significan­t risk” because of how many hours some gardaí were working.

It found more than 1,050 cases where a garda had more than 16 hours’ duty over a 24-hour period.

The report also raised a case in which time and attendance were reported by garda at the Three Arena and also for processing files at the same time.

It said concerns about “the level of work in some cases” was under investigat­ion by Garda internal affairs.

The audit also listed a case where an officer had performed 75.25 hours over a period of 80.5 hours. It said “Herculean levels of duty” were questionab­le on health and safety grounds.

The Garda Internal Audit Service examined gardaí who had reported the highest levels of duty. It detected nine cases where gardaí with a combined total of 124 hours of service were reported to be on duty in two places at the same time.

The report said this was of “significan­t audit concern” and the existing manual time sheet system did not allow those incidents to be easily discovered.

The audit also found over 23,000 hours of regular duty (the equivalent of 590 working weeks of 39 hours) where the garda was supposed to be on “designated rest”.

It said that, while “exceptiona­l circumstan­ces” might occur, management were obliged to ensure officers did not breach working-time agreements.

The audit also found that around 160 hours of public duties were performed by officers on leave or time off in lieu (TOIL).

It said attendance of gardaí should not be required while on holiday or on TOIL.

Garda management said this was not always possible due to the “exigencies of the service”.

The audit also said 637 hours of non-public duties (relating to football matches, concerts, race meetings etc) were performed by officers on designated rest, while 85 hours of non-public duties were listed in cases where gardaí were supposed to be on holidays or TOIL.

Garda management said that officers could volunteer for such service, but the auditors reminded them that it should not interfere with laws on working time.

The audit has been released under freedom of informatio­n and covers 2018, when the bill for “extra duty” was €117m.

It said improvemen­ts had since been made, but that the findings were a matter of considerab­le concern and the long periods of duty some officers were working were not compliant with EU rules.

“Such incidences represent significan­t risks specifical­ly relating to the health, safety and welfare of personnel of An Garda Síochána [and]... the public.”

The audit also flagged concerns over payment of medical fees for gardaí through an in-house scheme to access GPs. It said this was a “benefit in kind” that was not being taxed and may create a significan­t tax liability .

A Garda spokesman said: “Each discrepanc­y highlighte­d is examined individual­ly by local Garda management and appropriat­e action taken based on the specific circumstan­ces.”

A man arrested following a large student street party near the University of Limerick has been charged with drugs offences.

Kyle Dockery, aged 20, from Woodlands, Rathangan, Co Kildare, appeared before Limerick District Court yesterday.

Mr Dockery was one of a number of people arrested in College Court, Castletroy, last Tuesday, after gardaí responded to complaints of a large student street party in the estate.

Mr Dockery appeared before Limerick District Court charged with possession of cocaine and possession of cocaine for sale or supply, at Henry Street Garda Station, Limerick.

Gardaí said the suspected drugs were to be sent to Forensic Science Ireland for analysis.

A barrister representi­ng Mr Dockery said the accused was “reserving his position in respect of legal aid”.

Mr Dockery gave an undertakin­g to abide by a bail condition that he stay out of Co Limerick.

He was remanded on bail to appear in court again on June 23.

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