Thursday 19 January 2017

No grandstanding between Government and Gardaí - Fitzgerald

Published 29/09/2016 | 11:36

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is facing a huge challenge. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is facing a huge challenge. Photo: Steve Humphreys

There will be “no grandstanding” about who approaches who to restart negotiations on Garda pay and conditions, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has said.

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The minister told the Dáil this afternoon that she is in “no doubt whatsoever about the seriousness of this situation” – but added that she has still not been formally told by the GRA that they are rejected a deal negotiated late last Friday.

Ms Fitzgerald said her department wants to reengage and her  door is “absolutely open” for more talks.

“We haven’t heard formally back from the GRA. Certainly there wont’ be any grandstanding about who approaches who first,” she said.

The Tánaiste was responding to criticism from Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin who both described the looming strike days by members of An Garda Siochana as “unprecedented”.

Officers are threatening to withdraw services on November 4, 11, 18 and 25.

Ms Fitzgerald said such a move would not be in the interests of the country or the force.

She said gardaí had “played their part, a very significant part in stabilising the public finances and bridging about the economic recovery” and would benefit from the recovery in the context of the Lansdowne Road Agreement which outlines the timetable for pay increases in the public sector until September 2017.

The Fine Gael TD added that the Government views gardaí as “a key strand in Irish life and we are committed to supporting them in every way possible”.

Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan said there is “rampant demoralisation and anger in the force”.

“The Government has stumbled and stalled with the problems facing An Garda Siochana,” he said, adding that a “Mexican stand-off” cannot be allowed to develop.

Sinn Féin’s Jonathan O’Brien said that while the Government talked about the economic recovery it has yet “to trickle down to many members”.

He asked whether the minister was adopting a “wait and see game” rather than immediately going back into talks with the Garda Representatives Association.

Ms Fitzgerald responded: “It is my intention to do everything possible to ensure that the negotiations can start again.

“Obviously no one person and no one country is going to recovery overnight from the type of economic meltdown suffered by this country,”

She noted the Government had invested in new gardaí recruits, the training college in Templemore, in new vehicles and IT for the force.

She said pay cuts applied during the recession would be restored too but “within the constraints that are there are present”.

“The economy is recovering and we want to make sure they are getting the benefit of it,” she said.

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