Friday 21 July 2017

Tanaiste who was 'too busy' to attend garda conference spends three hours at FG branch meeting

EXCLUSIVE: Frances Fitzgerald spent three hours in Dublin hotel having earlier turned down chance to address mid ranking gardaí

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Robin Schiller and Niall O'Connor

TÁNAISTE Frances Fitzgerald is facing criticism after it emerged she attended a local Fine Gael branch meeting despite claiming she was too busy to address the annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI).

Ms Fitzgerald spent over three hours at the Maldron Hotel in Newlands Cross last night, having earlier turned down an offer to address representatives of the 2,500 mid-ranking gardai.

The union has been highly critical of Ms Fitzgerald's decision not to attend the three day conference in Killarney, describing it as "extremely disappointing". Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan addressed delegates today.

It’s now emerged the Justice Minister spent several hours at the Fine Gael event, which was also attended by Health Minister Simon Harris, who has described her as his mentor.

Ms Fitzgerald had originally intended to travel down to the conference.

However, her officials told AGSI that her schedule was too full, given that she had to attend Cabinet and a number of Cabinet sub-committees. Ms Fitzgerald also had to respond to a Fianna Fáil motion in relation to garda management.

A spokesman for the Tánaiste said:

“The Tanaiste regrets that because the pressure of Govt business this week, in particular Garda matters in the Dail, she is not in a position to attend the AGSI conference, which she had very much hoped to attend.”

AGSI members have been critical of the Tanaiste's decision to attend the local branch meeting after snubbing their annual conference.

President Antoinette Cunningham, while not commenting specifically on the Tanaiste's decision to attend the Dublin meeting, said that AGSI attempted to accommodate Ms Fitzgerald but that these offers were rebuked.

"We only asked for the Minister to attend the meeting for one hour, and we could have accommodated her on any of the three nights. If she really wanted to be here, she would be."

Ms Cunningham added that their position remains the same on their disappointment in the Tanaiste refusing to attend the 39th AGSI conference.

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