Split continues in GRA over threatened Garda strike

GRA conference removes a number of motions because they are ‘defamatory’

Two days before last winter’s  threatened garda strike a small number of GRA negotiators met with senior management. After the meeting a GRA statement asked a large number of gardaí from key units to report for work

Two days before last winter’s threatened garda strike a small number of GRA negotiators met with senior management. After the meeting a GRA statement asked a large number of gardaí from key units to report for work

 

The fallout from last winter’s threatened garda strike over pay is continuing, with a significant split in the force’s biggest staff body persisting and tensions heightening.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) removed a number of motions from proceedings at its annual conference in Galway because they were “defamatory”.

Debate on several rule changes, also linked to the fallout from the threatened strike, was also deferred. It will now be held at a special two-day conference next January so a review of the organisation by a consultancy firm can be completed.

The rule changes seek to compel the general secretary to confer with the GRA’s 31-person national executive before making important decisions.

Another proposal seeks to ensure senior positions on the executive must be ratified by both a two-thirds majority in the executive and at a special delegate conference.

In another new rule it is proposed that whenever the national executive votes on an issue, the wider membership is informed via the GRA’s website how each of the executive members voted.

GRA general secretary Pat Ennis said the motions were removed from the conference programme after legal advice.

He said the motions defamed him, and would also have left the organisation, which represents 10,200 rank-and-file gardaí in a 13,000-strong Garda force, vulnerable to legal actions from a number of other members.

Corporate governance

“There was an exposure to civil litigation by a number of people and it had to be removed,” he said of the contentious motion. “There was no discretion in relation to that. The corporate governance and the protection of our association and our membership’s funds is the number one priority.”

He accepted the workings of the GRA should be examined, and that was why Ampersand Consulting had been appointed to carry out a review. “It is a genuine effort on behalf of the GRA to professionalise our own association and how we go about our business.”

Nine divisions signed a letter sent to Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald seeking that she become involved in the withdrawal of the motions.

Although the contentious motions related to Mr Ennis and how he performed during the threatened strike, he said he had no knowledge of the letter.

Justice sources said the Minister had no role in the internal workings of a Garda staff association.

Mr Ennis took over as general secretary last autumn when PJ Stone retired .

When the GRA and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) threatened to withdrew their labour, a strike in all but name, on four consecutive Fridays last November, Mr Ennis led a small team of GRA negotiators. They were dealing with the Government and senior Garda management as well as the Labour Court.

Disquiet

While a pay deal was secured and accepted by GRA members there was disquiet over how the association handled itself on the eve of the first threatened strike.

Garda management was struggling to formulate a contingency plan because an order for all members to report to their senior officers and confirm their availability for work had been ignored. Agsi and GRA members believe this put them in a very strong negotiating position because the Government and Garda management were desperate to avert the strike.

Two days before the strike a small number of GRA negotiators met with senior management. After the meeting a GRA statement asked a large number of gardaí from key units to report for work .

Many ordinary GRA members and some on the association’s executive believe this provided Garda management with their contingency and took pressure off at a vital time in the pay talks.

Mr Ennis faced a motion of no confidence following those events. Although he survived the vote, a sizeable group within the GRA is still annoyed over the matter.