Enda Kenny defends Tánaiste over Garda strike

Taoiseach says Frances Fitzgerald is taking ‘a very responsible view’ of the situation

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has defended Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald over her response to the threatened Garda strike. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has defended Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald over her response to the threatened Garda strike. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has defended Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald over her response to the threatened Garda strike.

The Government is facing a near all-out Garda strike after sergeants and inspectors decided to join their rank-and- file colleagues on four days of industrial action next month.

The decision means 10,500 rank-and- file gardaí and an estimated 2,000 sergeants and inspectors will refuse to work for 24 hours from 7am on the four Fridays of November.

Mr Kenny said the Minister “takes a very responsible view of this and a very clear view of it”.

He said she is to meet the Garda Representative Association this week and that she has also “extended an invitation to the AGSI (Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors)”.

Mr Kenny was responding in the Dáil to Labour leader Brendan Howlin, who asked: “Does the Government intend to make any decisions to avoid the unravelling of the very hard-won Lansdowne Road Agreement?”

Mr Howlin said the Taoiseach would not accept “a proposal for the implementation of the Lansdowne Road Agreement to be accelerated to the new discussion rounds with public servants.

“You won’t accept a proposal relating to a new social dialogue and the Tánaiste appears in no rush to grant rights to gardaí to avail of the machinery of trade unions.”

Public pay commission

Mr Kenny confirmed that the Government had on Tuesday approved the establishment of a public pay commission.

He said: “Nobody wants to see a situation where An Garda Síochána na hÉireann are not on public duty as the only link between criminal activity and the safety of citizens.

Mr Kenny said that “there is still an opportunity to deal with this matter before the date mentioned by the gardaí” for their planned industrial action.

However, the Taoiseach added that “I want to make it perfectly clear that there are constraints on the public purse and we are not in a position to meet claims outside the Lansdowne Road Agreement”.

Mr Howlin said: “The deployment of reservists who do not have the power of arrest will not reassure people that public safety will be preserved.

“The overall response of Government to date is to repeat ad nauseum that the Lansdowne Road Agreement is the only deal in town.”

Mr Howlin, who negotiated the agreement, said: “The key to getting success in previous rounds was to be very honest with public servants about the options available to Government.”

He said the public pay commission would not report until next summer and “that’s hardly likely to give any assistance to the State in its current issues”.

Pay inequality

Meanwhile, People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said: “One of the several issues at the heart of this looming industrial action and the anger and frustration felt by teachers, by gardaí and by nurses is the issue of equality in pay” and the reduced starting pay rate for gardaí, teachers and nurses.

He asked if Mr Kenny accepted that inequality in pay was unacceptable and there should be equal pay for the same work.

“It breaches the fundamental principle of equality,” he said, asking the Taoiseach: “Will you commit to ending the pay apartheid?”

Mr Kenny told him it was a matter of serious concerns for teachers that a new deal for new teachers was implemented.