Shatter criticises picket action by GRA
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has launched a strongly worded attack on the leadership of the Garda Representative Association, suggesting they were leading industrial action, which is a criminal offence for any Garda member.
He 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. The association, which represents more than 11,500 gardaí, and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, have already withdrawn from the talks.
“I am concerned that what took place could discredit the force in the eyes of many people,” said Mr Shatter.
The 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.
Neither the association’s general secretary PJ Stone nor association president John Parker was available for comment.
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. Some members had also encouraged votes of no confidence in Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan at local meetings.
He did not believe gardaí had any place employing such tactics. “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.
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.
“Yesterday was a bad day for the reputation of the force when . . . the GRA executive saw fit both to engage in protest action, and criticise and abuse other trade unions and public representative bodies.”
It was his view “issues should be addressed with a mutual level of respect and understanding whilst appreciating that in the heat of the moment things may be done or said that with greater thought would not happen”.