Tuesday 24 January 2017

Fianna Fail accuse government of allowing garda dispute to become 'national crisis'

Published 03/11/2016 | 12:36

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan. Photo: Tom Burke
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan. Photo: Tom Burke

FIANNA Fáil has accused the government of allowing the Garda dispute "to become a national crisis".

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The party's justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan claimed the government has handled the matter "incompetently" and said they allowed "allowed a Mexican stand-off to develop between the Garda Associations and the government".

Mr O'Callaghan was speaking in the Dáil just minutes after the Garda Representative Association (GRA) released a statement indicating that tomorrow's strike but its more than 10,000 members is set go ahead.

He said that everyone has asked that the strike action be postponed.

"Everyone in this house knows that members of the force do not want to go on strike. We all know that they take their oath very seriously. We all know that they’ve served this country with distinction through many difficult times."

However, he turned on the government and addressed Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald who was taking leaders' questions.

"To date Tánaiste your government has managed this dispute incompetently. You allowed a Mexican stand-off to develop between the Garda Associations and the government.

"Your actions and inactions have had the effect of hardening positions rather than trying to address the legitimate grievances of An Garda Síochána.

He added: "Your government has allowed an industrial dispute become a national crisis."

Ms Fitzgerald defended the government's efforts to avert the threatened strikes by the GRA and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) and urged both organisations to "pull back from the brink".

She said that there had been agreements with the garda associations before they fell through.

"Let me point out that just a number of weeks ago AGSI’s members accepted the negotiations that were being done by the government. In a secret ballot of their members by 70pc to 30pc.

"So the negotiations had made progress at that point."

In relation to the GRA she said they "came into negotiations over a long period, many months, and on a Friday evening said that they had accepted the offer that was on the table and they’d go to their executive.

"That’s the history of what has happened."

She said that after the deals were later rejected, the government "urgently" invited both organisations back for talks which led to the negotiations with the Workplace Relations Commission, which gardaí were previously locked out of.

Ms said that she is now awaiting the recommendations of the Labour Court. These recommendations may not be delivered until tomorrow at the earliest.

Ms Fitzgerald said: "As we speak here about this dispute the Labour Court are meeting AGSI to consider their submissions... I would still at this point appeal to both organisations to pull back from the brink."

"I would ask them to stand back and suspend tomorrow’s action to allow the time and the space for the Labour Court to continue to do it’s work."

Mr O'Callaghan asked Ms Fitzgerald if the Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan has told her how many gardaí will be turning up for work tomorrow.

"Will Garda stations be open. Will 999 calls be answered? What are you and your government going to Tánaiste to ensure that the people of this country are safe tomorrow?," he asked.

Ms Fitzgerald said:

"Let’s be very clear the Commissioner has at all times of course been considering this. She has sent out the letter to ascertain what numbers will be available".

She added: "I do want to say to the house now that the GRA in the event of their strike going ahead have said that they will cooperate with the Commissioner to make sure that a basic policing service will be in place so that emergencies can be responded to.

"But let’s be clear that if 12,800 gardaí go on striker there is no contingency plan that can replace that number."

She said: "We are talking about essential services. We are talking about keeping our airports and our ports open. We are speaking about commerce continuing and responses being made to serious and urgent 999 calls and emergency situations. That’s the reality." 

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