Shatter tells Garda associations they have ‘lost their way’
Contentious speech to Agsi annual conference in Sligo
Agsi general secretary John Redmond listens as Minister for Justice Alan Shatter speaks to the media after addressing the annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors in Sligo yesterday. Photograph: Brian Farrell
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has told the staff associations representing the vast majority of gardaí that they have lost their way in trying to represent their members’ interests.
His contentious remarks followed an address to the annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) in Sligo.
When Mr Shatter took the stage to address delegates, sergeants and inspectors from the Carlow-Kilkenny Garda division walked out “as a protest vote of no confidence” in him.
The conclusion of the Minister’s remarks was met with silence from delegates rather than the customary round of applause.
Agsi national executive member Larry Brady delivered the association’s address to Mr Shatter at the opening of the three-day conference last night, in which he was very critical of reductions in Garda remuneration and resourcing.
On the issue of the recent closure of a further 100 Garda stations, he accused Mr Shatter of telling lies to the association. He told delegates that when the first stations were closed in 2011, Mr Shatter had assured the association that the lack of consultation with it would not be repeated for any further closure programme.
“Your words were lies,” he said, addressing Mr Shatter. “We [find] out what stations are closing on the Garda [computer] portal system while you stand in the Dáil making the announcement.”
Mr Shatter told delegates the association and the Garda Representative Association, which represents rank-and- file gardaí, had done their members a serious disservice when they decided to picket the recent negotiations on an extension to the Croke Park agreement.
He suggested they should have stayed inside the process and influenced the outcome to the benefit of their members, as the Prison Officers’ Association had done in reaching agreement on safeguarding some premium payments for officers.
He said of Agsi and the GRA: “I believe both bodies have lost their way, lost sight of the specific purposes for which they were formed and seem to be under the belief that by presenting themselves as some sort of protest movement they are acting in the best interests of the force.”
He also told delegates that despite reductions in public expenditure and the public sector pay bill, including Garda pay, members of the force were on average still better paid than their colleagues in the Defence Forces, Civil Service, the health sector and the education sector.
He pointed out that under his term as Minister, he had fought for a recalibration of spending figures agreed by the Fianna Fáil-led Coalition with the troika, which meant some €90 million per annum extra was available for the Garda force last year, this year and next.