A €20m fingerprint machine that was bought four years ago by the Department of Justice has yet to be used, the Seanad was told today.

The machine was intended to tackle international benefit fraud, and clamp down on individuals claiming benefits in several countries at once.

This state of the art fingerprint system was first mooted in 2006.

It was intended to link in with police forces in the UK and elsewhere.

The machine was duly installed in the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

Civil servants in the National Bureau of Immigration refused to operate the machine without getting higher pay.

The Garda Press Office said the fingerprint machine had not been operating because of industrial action, and that was a matter for the union involved.

The union said its legal advice was that the civil servants concerned did not have the legal authority to take fingerprints.

However, negotiations are continuing and they did not wish to comment further.

The delay in getting the machine operational was described as unacceptable in the Seanad.