The Government was today urged by a leading member of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) to carry out a review of the role and function of An Garda Síochána as a matter of urgency to help improve floundering morale in the force.
Agsi president Tim Galvin told the opening day of the union's conference in Killarney that morale within the force" is on the floor" despite the spin being put on matters by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter that all was well within the organisation.
Mr Galvin refused to call Mr Shatter’s decision not to attend the Agsi conference “a snub” but he did express disappointment that Mr Shatter was unable to attend the conference to hear the views of delegates who represent some 2,000 middle ranking gardai.
“When the Minister says that he is speaking to people on the ground and they tell him morale is high, I don’t know who he is talking to, definitely not the people I work with or represent,” Mr Galvin told the 150 delegates;
Mr Galvin said that the name of An Garda Síochána had been pilloried in the media and in Dáil Éireann over the past few months with the organisation making headlines across all media for all the wrong reasons.
“The reasons for these headlines are all to do with governance and how the organisation is being run. It relates by and large to poor policies and poor implementation of policies, clearly the responsibility of senior management and not front line supervision,” he said.
Mr Galvin said the media controversy had made the work of Agsi members on the street much more difficult and stressful. “The work that is being done by our members operationally on the ground is being undermined by the current controversies, not of our making.
“The current investigations underway must be completed as a matter of urgency and all information that is unearthed brought into the public domain. It is critical for the reputation of the Garda organisation that these investigations are concluded speedily.”
Mr Galvin said that Agsi had agreed to a review of An Garda Síochána under the Haddington Road agreement and while the industrial relations part of the review had begun, areas of structure and deployment had still to be addressed.
This was due to the failure of the government to engage with the staff associations and he called on Mr Shatter, as Minister for Justice, to take the opportunity to seek out the views of all four staff associations whose members are all stakeholders in the organisations.
“It is 44 years since we had a review of the Garda organisation. At that time all interested parties had an opportunity to express their views. We are now calling on you to engage widely to determine the role and function of the police service into the future.
“We are not afraid of what we will be told because we know the public are confident in the service delivered at the coal face. Any criticism levied at this great organisation at this point in time concerns governance.”
Mr Galvin pointed out that Agsi called for the establishment of a police authority over 15 years ago and it fell on deaf ears but it is due for debate again at this year’s conference and he expressed hope that the Government would taks its views on the issue on board.
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter was invited to attend the conference but Agsi said that it was informed by Department of Justice officials that he was unable to attend because he will be marking the Passover and has a meeting in Luxembourg tomorrow .
Asked about Mr Shatter's decision not to attend the conference, only the second time in 36 years that a Minister of Justice has not attended an Agsi conference, Mr Gavlin said it was a pity Mr Shatter was not attending as they had many issues they wished to raise with him.
“It’s very disappointing for us all because he is our minister and we have one chance every year to put the issues to him and he’s not here - there’s not a lot we can do about that but it is a pity that he is not here to listen to us but we just have to get on with it,” he said.
Asked if he believed Mr Shatter’s decision not to attend the conference would add to the stress in the relationship between AGSI and the minister after recent controversies over penalty points, phone recordings and whistleblowers, Mr Galvin said he hoped it would not.
“It’s his decision, there is nothing we can do about it , we just have to move on - he is our boss above our commissioner and okay, relations have been strained - they were the same last year but we want to move on - we don’t want the same sort of controversy again.”