Shatter says protest 'a bad day' for Garda reputation
Members of the Garda Representative Association picket public sector pay talks at Lansdowne House in Dublin yesterday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has described as a “bad day for the reputation” of An Garda Síochána yesterday’s placard protest by Garda members outside the official talks on an extension to the Croke Park agreement and he said he was concerned it could "discredit" the force.
Commenting on the decision by members of the Garda Representative Association to engage in protest action outside the building in Dublin where unions were meeting Government representatives, Mr Shatter said: “Yesterday was a bad day for the reputation of the force when, outside Lansdowne House, members of the GRA executive saw fit both to engage in protest action, and criticise and abuse other trade unions and public representative bodies which were properly representing the best interests of their members by engaging in discussion and negotiation inside Lansdowne House.”
“I am concerned that what took place yesterday could discredit the force in the eyes of many people,” Mr Shatter said in a statement this evening.
He said the general secretary of the GRA, PJ Stone, had today stated that the body was “never part of the talks nor can they influence the outcome of the talks”.
“It is unfortunate that he chooses to so grossly mislead not only the general public but also members of the force who he should be representing.”
He said a number of sessions had been held with the Garda associations, the last of these being on January 24th. The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors had withdrawn the following day, and the GRA had followed suit on February 4th, he said.
“Since the withdrawal from discussions by the GRA and AGSI, discussions have continued with all other trade unions and representative bodies.
“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.”
Mr Shatter said he fully understood and appreciated the nature of policing and the critical role played by An Garda Síochána in relation to the security and the safety of everyone in the State.
“I know that the gardaí perform a difficult and sometimes dangerous duty on behalf of all of us.
“In this context, both myself and the Government have, despite the critical exchequer position, sought to ensure that An Garda Síochána have all the necessary resources that the State can provide available to them at all times.”
Taoiseach Enda Kenny today reiterated pleas for representatives of rank-and-file gardaí to take part in the public sector pay talks.
As negotiations enter a critical weekend, Mr Kenny said the GRA should get the chance to put its concerns forward.
“The place to deal with the pay talks and the negotiations is at the table where these negotiations are taking place,” Mr Kenny said. “I respectfully request again that the Garda Representative Association would see it that they go back in there and have the full opportunity to articulate their concerns and the issues that are causing discussion for them.” Mr Kenny said he wanted the pay talks to conclude in a professional and proper fashion.
Mr Kenny was speaking as 11,300 members of the GRA began restricting what they described as “goodwill work practices” by refusing to use their own cars, phones, computers and cameras for police work.
The representative body has said people will have to wait to see what impact the action will have, but insisted members would not be breaking the law and were not putting the public at risk.