Sunday 23 October 2016

Back-up plan still up in air as strike nears

Published 19/10/2016 | 02:30

AGSI President Antoinette Cunningham speaking at a press briefing following the AGSI vote to withdraw labour. Photo: Steve Humphreys
AGSI President Antoinette Cunningham speaking at a press briefing following the AGSI vote to withdraw labour. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Contingency plans for policing during next month's four days of strike action by members of the main garda associations are up in the air.

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Provisional planning was heavily dependent on the availability of sergeants and inspectors to supervise the proposed use of garda recruits and members of the part-time garda reserve. But the mid-ranking officers threw that blueprint out the window when their representative association decided on Monday to join their rank and file colleagues in the protest action on the four days of November.

There are currently 748 members of the Reserve while 529 probationers are attached to stations and another 450 students are at the Garda College in Templemore. But their usage will be restricted because of the absence of supervisors even though the probationers, in theory, have full policing powers although they are normally accompanied by tutors during their initial 34-week phase in the stations.

The force has 44 chiefs and 165 superintendents but they will be unable to fill the supervisory gaps on their own. Many would not feel inclined to carry out duties that should be performed by their striking colleagues. It is expected that the senior officers along with the 10 at commissioner rank, including Nóirín O'Sullivan, will remain at their desks to oversee a largely ad hoc policing operation.

Administrative tasks will be put on hold for 24 hours while adjournments will be sought in court cases involving gardaí.

Senior gardaí and Justice officials acknowledge that at the moment there is no formal contingency plan, as they to focus on finding a way at the negotiating table to avert the strikes. But if this fails, the authorities will look to those gardaí, who either have the blessing of their colleagues to work on the strike days because of their specialist roles or have decided to ignore the decisions of their representatives and turn up as usual on the Fridays.

The GRA has "respectfully requested" its members in the Emergency Response Unit, and the five Regional Support Units outside Dublin, to make themselves available for duty. They can be called upon to deal with a serious incident involving crime or terrorism. Staff in the technical bureau are also expected to be on call.

But the big imponderable for the authorities is how many members in the ranks of garda up to inspector opt to work and take over some of the supervisory duties.

Irish Independent

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