Owen legislation will not resolve dispute within Garda, says FF


LEGISLATION will not resolve the bitter and public dispute between Garda representative groups, the Fianna Fail spokesman on justice, Mr John O'Donoghue, told a Dail Select Committee yesterday.

He said the Minister for Justice should offer to meet the rival associations and not admit defeat in solving the long-running dispute outside of new legislation.

The Minister, Mrs Owen, accepted that the Garda Siochana Bill, 1996, was not the best way to solve the dispute but said every other avenue was exhausted.

"Short of pulling people's toe-nails out, all efforts have been made to bring the two sides together. I make no apologies for bringing this legislation here. I hope that when it is passed it has the effect of making people recognise that democracy has to exist."

The Labour TD, Mr Jim Kemmy, criticised the recent "abusive" and "totally unnecessary attacks on Mrs Owen by representatives of the Garda Representative Association. Reaching a solution to the dispute outside of legislation had proved impossible. "No minister in their right mind would want to interfere with a trade union except as a last resort. The gardai have a role to play in our society so let's have an end to this petty squabbling," he said.

Under the Garda Siochana Bill, 1996, the Minister for Justice could decide whether the association representing gardai was operating within the Bill, said the Fianna Fail TD, Mr Willie O'Dea. This power meant the Minister could act as "judge, jury and executioner" in negotiations with Garda representatives. It was a "recipe for continuing dispute".

On voting rights for gardai under the Bill, the Progressive Democrats TD, Ms Liz O'Donnell, said there was a "real democratic deficit". She said 43 per cent of total Garda strength had only 27 per cent of the total vote.