Fitzgerald favours allowing gardai to affiliate with ICTU
GARDA representative bodies are expected to be given full access to the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court in a groundbreaking move.
The move follows a response from Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to an earlier ruling by the European Committee of Social Rights that the gardai should have the right to strike.
That ruling was non-binding and Ms Fitzgerald yesterday formally submitted her reaction to the Council of Europe.
She is understood to be in favour of giving the garda groups the right to affiliate to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, to take part in collective pay bargaining and to appear before the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court.
However, it is believed that she is taking a more cautious approach to the ruling that the gardai should be able to strike.
This decision was approved by a majority of the committee members but some dissenting views were also expressed, the minister said last night.
Mrs Fitzgerald said the ruling raised significant and sensitive issues not only for Ireland, where the garda force delivered both the policing service and the security service, but also for other member states.
The ruling, which was discussed briefly by ministers at Tuesday's cabinet meeting, was taken by the European Committee following a two-year battle by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors.
It will apply to all ranks up to chief superintendent and, if approved here, will mean the gardai have the right to organise as a trade union, to take part in collective bargaining and to full consultation.
At present, the four garda representative bodies are excluded from access during discussion on vital issues, including pay talks and changes to their working conditions.
It will also allow the gardai join the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and take an active part in negotiations, rather than relying on sideline briefings by civil servants from the departments of justice and finance.
AGSI general secretary John Redmond, who pursued their complaint to the social rights committee on behalf of his association, described the ruling as a "defining moment in our history and a significant decision for our future".
Mrs Fitzgerald said in her response to the Council of Europe that the findings of the committee would be submitted to an independent, comprehensive review of the garda force.