Minister lays down the law to gardai on pay action
JUSTICE Minister Dermot Ahern last night warned gardai to think twice before embarking on any campaign of industrial action.
He said An Garda Siochana had always been held in very high esteem by the public and the representative associations should be wary of any steps that could diminish that.
Mr Ahern was speaking in Galway at the annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI).
The body is expected to announce today that it will take action, within the law, thereby following in the footsteps of rank-and-file gardai.
The minister said the current pay talks at Croke Park with the unions were "going well" and he was hopeful that agreement could be reached. But there was no easy way to make financial cuts and bring expenditure under control.
He said the Taoiseach and his ministers were the first to implement cuts and had also exhorted those in the higher echelons of society to make similar gestures.
Mr Ahern told the conference that the pay reductions were proportionate, with higher earners in the public service losing significantly more that lower earners.
Asked about the AGSI's demand for a reversal of the pay cuts, he said there was very little scope for manoeuvre.
Mr Ahern said it would have been grossly unfair to force senior civil servants to make the same type of cuts as ministers and he supported the Government's stance on their pay.
The minister dismissed suggestions that the crackdown on dissident terrorism or gangland crime would be affected by the drop in garda numbers and said the strength of the force had grown from 12,000 to 14,500.
The Garda Commissioner had a budget this year of about €1.5bn, said Mr Ahern, which included more than €1bn for pay and allowances. Despite the public service ban on promotions, he had recently secured approval for 28 new inspectors and 120 sergeants.
There was no intention of "taking the foot off the pedal" in tackling dissident republicans, promised the minister.
He was critical of recent remarks by Labour's justice spokesman Pat Rabbitte of the failure of the gardai to bring prosecutions under the new gangland legislation.
In relation to conference comments about the rights of a householder to defend himself against an intruder, Mr Ahern said the law was already in place that gave the householders such rights, providing reasonable force was used.
He was also bringing in legislation to copperfasten those rights and would include recommendations from the Law Reform Commission.