Helen McEntee declines to attend GRA conference as Drew Harris not invited

Rank and file Garda organisation described decision as ‘extremely disappointing’

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said she will not attend the Garda Representative Association (GRA) annual conference because Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has not been invited.

The GRA has described the decision as “extremely disappointing” while Sinn Féin said it was “strange”.

“The Minister for Justice has engaged with the GRA in recent weeks and asked them to reconsider inviting the Garda Commissioner to their annual conference,” a spokeswoman for the Minister said.

“The GRA declined. The Minister has made the decision it would not be appropriate to attend the conference. The Minister will continue to engage with the GRA. The Minister is absolutely committed to making progress on the issues facing the men and women of An Garda Síochána and to working with the commissioner and representative groups to deliver a number of important reforms.”


In a statement, GRA president Brendan O’Connor and general secretary Ronan Slevin said her decision was “extremely disappointing and shows a clear lack of understanding of the issues that are affecting our members”.

“The invite to conference was sent months ago, yet just six days prior to the conference the Minister has informed us that she will not attend.”

Sinn Féin’s justice spokesman Pa Daly said the decision was “strange” given the Fine Gael party’s focus on crime. “It’s very unfortunate that it’s come to this,” he said.

The public did not want to see “the people who are supposed to be in charge falling out or fighting with each other. It’s very, very unfortunate that it has come to this. It’s clear that the commissioner not being invited is a sign of the difficulties that have been there for months now. There have also, of course, been contradictions between what the Minister has said about not being appraised of the morale of the gardaí and the GRA themselves, saying that morale is in tatters. But I think that it’s all the more strange that she isn’t attending when there has been a huge focus on crime recently as part of the Fine Gael reset or whatever they’re calling it.”

Mr Daly said it should have been a priority for the Minister to attend the conference to show support for gardaí.

“It’s all about a question of confidence. People need to feel safe in their communities, and they need to feel that somebody is in charge and that the people at the top are focused on one issue, and that is keeping communities safe, reducing the fear of crime in communities, and reducing the cause of and tackling crime.

“I think that she should be sitting down, or her officials should be sitting down, with all sides and trying to work on it. It is a serious problem. People don’t want to see squabbling there. It’s just unfortunate that it has come to this.”

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times