Garda group leader Pat Ennis faces vote of no confidence
Infighting at Garda Representative Association over decision not to continue with strike
GRA general secretary Pat Ennis: the no-confidence motion arises from dissatisfaction in some quarters about how events of last week were handled. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins
The organisation representing rank-and-file gardaí is in turmoil as its leader faces a motion of no confidence amid a bitter split.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA), which represents about 10,500 rank-and-file gardaí, was beset with infighting in the lead-up to calling off its planned strike action last Friday.
Tensions have continued since then, with some members of the executive staging a walkout at the national executive meeting in Dublin on Monday. They were protesting at the refusal of the meeting to accept their motion of no confidence in general secretary Pat Ennis.
The motion was eventually accepted for consideration. It was deferred and is expected to be voted on at another meeting of the executive on Wednesday.
The dispute is damaging to the association and undermines the authority of the executive to advise ordinary members on whether they should vote to accept or reject the strike-averting financial package put forward by the Labour Court last week.
If the vote of no confidence in Mr Ennis were carried, a new group opposed to the package may emerge at the top of the GRA.
The first of four planned strike days, from 7am last Friday, was called off late last Thursday night. The action was averted after the GRA and Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) agreed to put the Labour Court proposals to their members in a ballot.
The no confidence motion in Mr Ennis arises from serious dissatisfaction in some quarters of the GRA about how it handled the tense events of last week just before the first strike in the history of the Garda was averted.
On Tuesday last, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan issued an order to all members instructing them to be available for duty on Friday, the proposed day of the strike.
However, when only negligible numbers confirmed their availability to senior officers, panic set in within Garda management and Government.
Without the co-operation of the GRA, 300 senior Garda officers not involved in the dispute would have been left to police the State for 24 hours, with just 950 student gardaí to call on.
When a delegation from the GRA, led by Mr Ennis, met Garda management on Thursday morning, they were put under pressure to grant a derogation to their members in key policing areas so that a contingency plan could be formulated for the strike.
The derogation was granted, much to the annoyance of other members of the national executive, some of whom were “absolutely incensed and stunned” according to informed sources.
The GRA executive rejected a proposal for such a wide derogation on three occasions in recent weeks.
When some members heard the derogation had been granted and a public statement confirming the move had been issued, they believed those at the head of the GRA had sabotaged the association’s position of strength.
“It was a key moment, everything had built up to that point,” said one source.
“And then, when we had the Government under pressure, we decide to hand [Garda] management a full contingency plan and make our own [strike] action irrelevant.”
Much of the anger was directed towards Mr Ennis and has now resulted in the vote of no confidence.
For now, the GRA has suspended plans for a withdrawal of service, a strike in all but name, for the remaining three Fridays in November as it ballots its members on the Labour Court proposals.
The package involves the reintroduction of a €4,000-per-year rent allowance for new Garda members and for that allowance to be rolled into salary for all Garda members, which would increase overtime and premium payments calculated off-salary.
Allowances for each day’s leave a Garda member takes and small payments for preshift briefings also form part of the recommendation.