In-fighting and terrorism motion to make for lively GRA debates
Bad atmosphere lingers over contingency plan for strike by gardaí
This year’s GRA conference is littered with motions on the inner workings of the organisation
Always a lively affair, the Garda Representative Association’s annual conference may put senior officers under pressure this time around.
One of the items down for debate, for example, is that counter-terrorism training be extended to all Garda members. Delegates from the Donegal and Cavan-Monaghan divisions have suggested it should be given twice a year, and that the budget be ringfenced. They are also proposing that Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan sanction any chief superintendent who does not facilitate it.
Senior management has always argued that specialist and armed units in the Garda are well-placed to deal with the growing terror threat. However, with lone wolf low-cost terrorism – including driving vehicles into crowds, for example – on the increase, this issue has more meaning than ever.
If nothing else such incidents serve as a reminder that specific counter-terrorism training is only provided to select personnel in the force.
Within the ranks of the GRA itself, the fireworks are likely to result from a much more local issue. A split has emerged in the organisation since it met 12 months ago for its last conference.
Former general secretary PJ Stone has retired on age grounds after two decades leading the association. He was replaced by Pat Ennis after a recruitment competition. However, there is disquiet from some quarters over the handling of the GRA’s threatened strike action late last year. It was the first big test of Ennis’s leadership.
Some members were angry when a small group of GRA executive members, including Ennis, agreed on the eve of the first of four proposed strike days to assist senior management in putting contingency plans in place.
An order from senior management for all members to report their availability to work on the day had been overwhelmingly ignore by gardaí. It meant Garda Headquarters was struggling to put in place any policing on the day. However, the GRA eventually agreed to ask members in a large number of Garda units to be available despite the strike plans.
Some on the executive believed the GRA negotiators had weakened the organisation’s hand at the moment of maximum opportunity in their battle for more pay. Ennis faced a no-confidence vote but overcame it. However, the bad atmosphere lingers.
Arising from those events of six months ago, this year’s conference is littered with motions on the inner workings of the organisation. Specifically, some motions call for controls on the power of GRA representatives taking decisions in industrial relations negotiations without reverting to the national executive for consultations.
There is another motion proposing that those acting as negotiators for the GRA must have the “necessary qualifications” for that work.
Other motions set down are that the only national executive members permitted to speak to the media are those sanctioned to do so.
A mooted new rule put forward by delegates from Sligo-Leitrim suggests a record of how each executive member voted on any issue should be noted and relayed back to members.
It appears there are a lively few days ahead.