Garda dismay at Government's failure to attend conference
GARDA supervisors have turned their fire on the Government for failing to send a representative to their annual conference.
It is the first time in 36 years that a government minister has not been present at the conference organised by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI).
Justice Minister Alan Shatter could not attend yesterday evening because of a private commitment linked to the Jewish Passover.
He is also attending a half-yearly meeting of EU defence ministers in Luxembourg today.
The only other occasion since the association was formed in 1976 that the Justice Minister could not attend was in 1998 because of the Good Friday peace talks and the Minister for Agriculture deputised for him.
However, nobody has been sent this week despite recent controversies that have rocked the force. The conference heard last night in Killarney that morale in the organisation was on the floor as a result of the fall-out from the controversies.
Association general secretary John Redmond said his members were gravely disappointed that Mr Shatter felt he could not attend.
Association president Tim Galvin said this was the only time when the minister would have an opportunity to hear the views of delegates.
He believed that recent controversies and an ever expanding workload were the cause of morale being on the floor.
"Despite the minister's best spin over the last few years that all is fine, this is not the case.
"The reasons for these headlines are all to do with governance and how the organisation is being run.
"It relates by and large to poor policies and poor implementation of policies, clearly the responsibility of senior management and not front-line supervision."
Mr Galvin said he and his colleagues at the front line were bearing the brunt of public criticism as people repeated what they heard or read in the Dail or the media.
Mr Redmond said his members had nothing to fear from being accountable, adding that the supervisors were concentrating on providing a proper police service and if new inquiries meant "shining a light in dark corners or shaking the skeletons out of the closet, then let's do it".
Very few of his members knew about the taping of telephone calls in garda stations, he said, and believed it was confined mainly to emergency calls.
He said a motion due to be discussed later today about providing more robust measures to protect whistleblowers had been tabled by their Donegal branch, adding that the proposal for an independent police authority was not a new concept and the AGSI had first called for its setting up in 1999.