'Army would not have same training and authority as gardaí'
Defence Force personnel "would not have the same authority and training as gardaí" if they were called in as emergency cover during planned industrial action next month.
Gerry Mooney, General Secretary of PDFORRA (Permanent Defence Forces Other Ranks Representative Association), said that the Government has never before required the army to intervene in such a way, and that military personnel would not want to undermine their colleagues in An Garda Síochána. However, he also said that if asked to carry out the task, members of the Defence Forces would do so.
Last night, Defence Minister Paul Kehoe said that contingency plans are dealt with by the Department of Justice, with which he liaises closely.
It comes as some 10,500 gardaí prepare to go on strike, with an upcoming vote on industrial action by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), which the majority of members are expected to support.
The association representing thousands of Defence Forces personnel also said that the training received by soldiers is different from the duties carried out on a daily basis by gardaí.
"The Government has said in the past that it won't use the Defence Forces in that manner; emergency cover has only been provided for ambulances and fire services. It would be hard to see what role the Defence Forces would play," said Mr Mooney.
"At the end of the day, if ordered to carry out the task, members of the Defence Forces will do [it]. No doubt in this circumstance they would certainly rather not do it, they wouldn't want to undermine their colleagues in the gardaí.
"In terms of training and other things, a soldier doesn't have the authority of a Garda, who can carry out arrests and has 'stop and search' powers.
"I could see military policemen training to do the job of a civil policeman, but their numbers are tiny. Soldiers have their own jobs to do and from a policing point of view some roles overlap. Some soldiers have received riot training, which is provided for standby, but generally speaking, no, they wouldn't have the same training," Mr Mooney added.
If the planned Garda Representative Association (GRA) strikes go ahead and AGSI members vote in favour of industrial action, it would mean that student and trainee gardaí, as well as officers of Superintendent rank and above, would be needed to carry out frontline policing.
It is understood that specialist units including the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) currently deployed in Dublin to deal with the Hutch-Kinahan feud would be exempt from taking part in the strike.
Defence Minister Paul Kehoe said he would "not like to envisage" an all-out strike by gardaí and that he is currently liaising with Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. "Plans to deal with any disruption to policing services lies with the Minister for Justice and her Department, with whom my Department liaises closely," said Mr Kehoe.
"An Garda Síochána are our front line against crime and I would not like to envisage a situation where this was not the case. Members of An Garda Síochána, like all public servants, have played a significant part in restoring the public finances. Any resolution of their concerns can only be addressed through engagement and I would urge a return to talks," he added.
The key demands being sought by the GRA are:
■ The restoration of pay relativities and the reversal of pay cuts implemented since 2008;
■ Reversal of the deferral of increments;
■ No additional free hours.
Meanwhile, cleaning staff at the Garda College in Templemore will commence industrial action in the form of a work to rule today. The cleaning staff are the lowest paid civil servants in the country. The dispute is over several issues including management's failure to hire enough staff to deal with increased student numbers.
However, despite the first of the four day-long strikes being just over a month away, the Government has indicated that there is no room for manoeuvre or special deals.