Angry garda confronts Taoiseach during canvassing
Published 25/03/2013 | 17:36
A GARDA angered by pay cuts confronted Taoiseach Enda Kenny as he canvassed for the Meath East by-election.
The father-of-three challenged Mr Kenny in a raw showdown, accusing him of taking money from his pockets.
During the emotionally charged meeting on a supermarket floor, the Taoiseach was adamant the hard-pressed officer should contribute his fair share to recovery and he insisted all public sector workers would do the same.
"You're a guard, which is a very important job. You're an intelligent man. But what do you think is going to pay for the services that you need?" Mr Kenny said.
The Taoiseach reacted defensively and went on to criticise the Garda Representative Association (GRA) and Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors and accused them of walking out of the pay talks.
The officer, who would not give his name due to the nature of his job, said he should be compensated for the unsociable hours he works.
The Ratoath man cornered the Taoiseach as he made his way around a supermarket in the small Meath town, canvassing support for Helen McEntee - daughter of the late junior minister Shane McEntee who died before Christmas.
"I didn't cause this economy to collapse but I feel I'm being singled out. I'm being told that I have to accept this because of the state of the economy," the garda said.
Unions will soon vote on whether to accept government proposals outlined last month to cut one billion euro from the state's public sector pay bill, which accounts for 35% of total public spending.
The deal - drafted by the Labour Relations Commission - will see workers take pay cuts on salaries above 65,000 euro, frozen increments and longer working hours with no extra pay.
The Taoiseach had initially been beaming from ear to ear as he greeted shoppers in the Ratoath supermarket.
But shaking the hand of an elderly lady in the frozen food aisle, his grin faded as the officer approached.
He told Mr Kenny of how little time he gets to spend with his wife and three children, missing weekends, bank holidays and Christmas Day due to work.
The Taoiseach chatted enthusiastically and tried to give the man his card, but his face dropped when the garda revealed his occupation.
He accused the Government of targeting frontline staff who work shifts and warned the Taoiseach that further cuts to the public sector would stifle local economies.
"The money I take home goes into this community here, whether it's in the hairdressers with my wife, the pubs or any of the restaurants," he said.
"All the money goes back into the economy. You're taking it out of my pockets."
He told Mr Kenny that if he returns to Co Meath in three years' time to canvass for the general election, the local businesses will have gone bust and the youngsters will have emigrated.
"You're taking the money out of my pocket, which means I can't support other people who have wives and children," he said.
Mr Kenny suggested the GRA was to blame for rank-and-file gardai not getting a better deal at the pay talks.
"When you look at the unions who stayed in there, they were all able to get concessions from what was originally proposed in these talks.
"Right across the public sector, this is a problem that is not going to go away unless it is fixed. Everybody loses."
The by-election takes place on Wednesday.