WHILE YESTERDAY’S BUDGET was forced to wield the axe in a multitude of places – as Brendan Howlin sliced €2.2 billion from public spending – one small little-known agency was left with its budget untouched.
The Irish Secret Service – which previously came under the funding umbrella of the Minister for Finance, but which now lives under the remit of Howlin’s own Department of Public Expenditure – has retained its full budgetary funding for next year.
The agency will retain its €1m annual budget – despite having spent less than half of this, at €450,000, in 2011.
Indeed, the agency has fared particularly well over the last few years despite the successive austerity Budgets – its budget was increased from €900,000 to €1m in 2009, despite spending cuts of some €1.2 billion in that year.
Its budget was also maintained in last year’s Budget – despite an unprecedented €6 billion adjustment in the public finances last year.
Little is known about Ireland’s Secret Service or its activities, though officials have previously indicated that it does not actually exist: it is actually a budget category for joint operations between the Gardaí and military intelligence.
The service’s funding is paid into a bank account controlled by the Department of Public Expenditure, with funding then released whenever the ministers for Defence and Justice (currently both Alan Shatter) ask for it to be drawn down.
As one official told a Public Accounts Committee meeting in 2008, “imagine that the money is used to pay for information in the interests of the service of the State, rather than the supply of bullet-proof cars.”
In that light, it is perhaps more notable that the service’s spending actually fell in 2011, despite the visits of Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth: it spent €702,000 in 2010, but only €450,000 this year.
Sadly, we can’t tell you anything more that that. Well, we could, but we’d have to kill you.