Saturday 10 December 2016

'No barrier between criminals and public if gardaí strike' - Kenny

Published 28/10/2016 | 02:30

In a strong intervention, the Taoiseach urged the three unions outside the Lansdowne Road Agreement to call off the threat of industrial action and accept pay offers that are on the table. Photo: Getty
In a strong intervention, the Taoiseach urged the three unions outside the Lansdowne Road Agreement to call off the threat of industrial action and accept pay offers that are on the table. Photo: Getty

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has warned that there will be no barrier "between criminality and law-abiding citizens" if gardaí withdraw services next Friday.

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Mr Kenny also described yesterday's strike by ASTI teachers as "unnecessary", adding that it was putting students in a position that is to be "deeply regretted".

In a strong intervention, the Taoiseach urged the three unions outside the Lansdowne Road Agreement to call off the threat of industrial action and accept pay offers that are on the table.

"I want to make it clear that we do not have the resources to meet the claims that have been made," he said.

Asked whether he agreed with Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar that the public's view of An Garda Siochána would be irreversibly damaged by a strike, the Taoiseach said he did not want to say anything that might disrupt "very sensitive discussions".

However, he added: "I do hope that people will focus on their responsibility here and what's on offer, and that our streets and our communities will not be left bereft of services of the gardaí which are so important as the only barrier between criminality and law-abiding citizens."

He said work was under way to give gardaí access to the Work Relations Commission and the Labour Court.

"The Public Pay Commission has been announced. It will provide an opportunity for everybody to have their say as well," Mr Kenny added.

"Clearly the minister [Paschal Donohoe] has signalled that we have to have a successor to Lansdowne Road and we'll work in that area as well."

Mr Kenny said the closure of more than 500 schools yesterday was "disappointing" and should not be repeated on November 7.

"Our young people are preparing for a very competitive world that's out there and anything which disrupts their education, especially those in exam years, is to be deeply regretted.

"It's an inconvenience to parents. This dispute is unnecessary and the opportunity is there for the ASTI to achieve the same benefits as both the TUI and INTO have achieved within the confines of the Lansdowne Road Agreement."

However, Fianna Fáil education spokesman Thomas Byrne accused the Government of using an "aggressive strategy" by issuing a circular to instruct that the ASTI members will not be paid when they withdraw from supervision and substitution after the midterm break.

"The country is now facing complete and utter chaos on Monday week when the schools are meant to be returning from midterm break," he said.

"Macho posturing in a situation like this achieves nothing and can be completely counterproductive."

In the Dáil, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said 23 unions, representing 300,000 public sector workers, had made good deals on pay restoration.

Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald said pay equality for young teachers recruited after 2011 had to be government policy.

She also criticised the Government for sticking to the same mantra about negotiations around the Lansdowne Road Agreement on public pay restoration.

"No disrespect, but you sound like a broken record," the Sinn Féin deputy leader said.

Ms Fitzgerald said the vast majority of public service workers had backed Lansdowne Road for pay restoration and efforts would continue to negotiate a successor to the deal when it runs out in 2017.

Fianna Fáil's Dara Calleary said the problem was that neither teachers nor gardaí trusted the Government to treat them fairly.

Irish Independent

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