GRA divided over uniformed protest by gardaí over cuts
The Garda Representative Association has suggested that gardaí break regulations and attend a rally next week against pay cuts dressed in their uniforms.
Any such move would be a major embarrassment for the Government and would put the association, which represents 11,300 rank-and-file gardaí in a force of 13,400, on a major collision course with Minister for Justice Alan Shatter.
He would be forced to intervene to block the move or to penalise those involved if it went ahead. However, Mr Shatter would find it very difficult to identify and have a disciplinary process taken against, a large number of gardaí.
It would also leave him open to the charge that he had lost control of the force.
The attendance of gardaí in uniform at the rally, which is being organised by front-line public service staff in protest against proposed cuts to earnings, would also represent a challenge to the authority of Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan. Part of the oath sworn by gardaí when they assume their full Garda powers after training is to remain apolitical.
The idea to rally in uniform at a protest next Monday was mooted earlier this week at a behind-closed-doors meeting of the national executives of unions and representative bodies of those front-line and emergency workers involved in the 24/7 Frontline Services Alliance.
The alliance includes Garda members, nurses, firefighters and prison officers. There are two Garda bodies in the alliance, namely the GRA and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI).
The GRA put forward the idea that gardaí in uniform would attend the rally at the National Basketball Arena, Tallaght, Dublin, next Monday night.
Informed sources said the level of militancy within the ranks of the Garda over reduced remuneration and resources was at an all-time high and that the GRA leadership was being put under pressure by its membership to take a harder line.
Other sources said while the suggestion by the organisation that its members would attend in uniforms represented the GRA taking such a hardened approach, they doubted if the proposal would come to fruition.
The same sources said all front-line workers may wear 24/7 Alliance caps rather than rally dressed in different uniforms.
A spokesman for the GRA said he did not believe gardaí would rally in their uniforms. When asked if senior people in the association wanted those in attendance to wear their Garda uniforms, he said he could not comment.
The association’s national executive yesterday began its two-day monthly meeting in Dublin. The meeting took place against a backdrop in the past fortnight of a number of local meetings at which members passed votes of no confidence in Mr Shatter and Mr Callinan.
Members also voted at local meetings for industrial action, which they are banned from undertaking, and in favour of work-to-rule protests.
While gardaí are permitted to attend events when they are off duty and in their civilian clothes, they are strictly forbidden from attending any event in their uniforms even when off duty.
Government representatives are next week expected to table formal proposals for cuts under a proposed extension to the Croke Park agreement.