Gardaí to ballot for strike action

 

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) is to press ahead with plans to ballot its members on industrial action despite warnings that such action would be illegal.

The GRA’s national executive this evening concluded two days of talks at their headquarters in Dublin at which it was decided not to defer or cancel the ballot.

They discussed the strong reaction of Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern and Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy to the association’s surprise announcement on Monday that they planned to ballot their membership.

The GRA represents almost 12,000 rank and file gardaí in a force of 14,500.

Sources familiar with the talks that concluded this evening said the ballot plan remains in tact but the logistics of organising the postal ballot may take longer than first anticipated.

The GRA has now begun the process of finding a returning officer and is also planning a system of independent oversight by auditors.

GRA sources said the decision to ballot had been taken at a meeting last Saturday and the association would not be deterred by subsequent negative reaction. Mr Ahern has described the plans as an affront to democracy.

He said the Government would not stand by as those people charged with upholding the law went about breaking it. Mr Ahern and Mr Murphy have both said industrial action would seriously damage the force’s relationship with the public.

Mr Murphy called GRA general secretary PJ Stone and president Michael O’Boyce to his offices at Garda headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin, on Tuesday. He outlined the provisions in the Garda Síochána Act 2005 under which gardaí who take industrial action or induce others to do so face five years in jail.

Mr Murphy also stressed that members of the GRA who took industrial action, including its executive, could be targeted in civil actions by the State and other parties.

He also gave Mr Stone and Mr O’Boyce a letter containing legal advice from the Attorney General Paul Gallagher SC. The contents of the letter were discussed by the 31 members of the GRA’s executive at its meeting today and yesterday.

A spokesman for the GRA said while Mr Murphy had spoken to Mr Stone and Mr O’Boyce, he had not specifically directed them not to hold a ballot.

Sources within the GRA said it was hoped the ballot papers would be printed in the next two weeks and sent out as quickly as possible to members.

The result would become known towards the end of next month. It would inform the GRA’s plans to protest over the cut in pay suffered by its members and the exclusion of the association from recent, and future, talks on public sector savings and reforms.

The GRA is a representative association rather than a trade union. Because of this it was excluded from the recent talks on public sector savings that eventually broke down.