GRA hits back at Shatter criticisms
Gardai are seen on patrol in Dublin city yesterday during the first day of their withdrawal of goodwill as part of a campaign of opposition to proposed pay cuts. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times
The Garda Representative Association has rejected criticisms from Minister for Justice Alan Shatter over their method of opposition to proposed pay cuts.
Mr Shatter yesterday accused the GRA leadership of leading industrial action, which is a criminal offence for any Garda member.
The Minister also severely criticised the association for placing a picket outside talks in Dublin on Thursday between unions and Government officials on an extension of the Croke Park agreement.
“I am concerned that what took place could discredit the force in the eyes of many people,” said Mr Shatter.
“Instead of engaging in discussions, the GRA position has evolved into a public protest movement and its executive is now encouraging members of the force to engage in a form of industrial action,” he said.
The association, which represents more than 11,500 gardaí, and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, have withdrawn from the talks.
However, in a statement today the GRA said despite the Minister’s assertions “at no time have gardaí been allowed into the main pay talks, but have always been sidelined in another meeting room and provided with irregular briefings on progress in the pay talks”.
“This is not acceptable in modern industrial relations, and harks back to a bygone era. The Garda Representative Association is denied union status; and only trade unions affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions have a voice in the pay talks.”
GRA general secretary PJ Stone said in the absence of a mechanism where policing and garda morale can be discussed gardaí had no option but to "register their anger and frustration through legitimate peaceful placard protest and the turning off of the goodwill tap".
Placards carried by about 30 members of the Garda Representative Association national executive on Thursday read: “1913 Lockout: 2013 Sell Out”, “Come Out, Not Sell Out”, “Betrayed by Unions” and “Shattered by Cuts”.
In a move set to significantly increase tensions between gardaí and the Government on proposed cuts to Garda pay and allowances, Mr Shatter has clearly accused the association’s leaders of encouraging other gardaí into industrial action.
It is a criminal offence for any Garda member to induce another member into industrial action. Gardaí are also banned from taking industrial action because they swear an oath to serve the State and to remain apolitical.
Mr Shatter said while it was not unusual for the association to criticise a minister for justice, it had engaged in personal criticism of Taoiseach Enda Kenny. The GRA today rejected this assertion.
Some members had also encouraged votes of no confidence in Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan at local meetings.
Mr Shatter’s accusations, aimed at the national executive of the association, came after the first day of a campaign of protest by rank-and-file gardaí over proposed cuts.
The members began refusing to use their personal mobile phones, vehicles and laptops for duties.
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors announced yesterday it was joining the GRA in its action.
The protest looks set to be escalated if the threat of cuts increases.
The GRA has said it would place pickets outside meetings of foreign government ministers in Dublin as part of Ireland’s presidency of the EU. Mr Shatter said the sole picket held to date, on Thursday, had already damaged the force.