Monday 23 October 2017

Alan Shatter slams garda representative bodies in hard-hitting address

JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter has accused garda representative bodies of losing their way and doing a disservice to ordinary officers.

In a hard-hitting address to the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) conference, the minister said they had missed the chance to argue their case in public sector pay talks.


He also hit out at the representative bodies for picketing the negotiations, and a separate demonstration last week at the Dail.


"I believe both bodies have lost their way, lost sight of the specific purposes for which they were formed and seem to be under the belief that by presenting themselves as some sort of protest movement they are acting in the interest of members of the force," he said.


"I believe the approach taken is a disservice to members of the force."


Mr Shatter's wide-ranging address to the Agsi conference in Sligo also warned about garda abuse of power.


Referring to officers wiping penalty points, a report on which is due to be handed to the minister shortly, and the leaking of information, the minister said important issues must be addressed.


It is understood the garda who blew the whistle on colleagues wiping points is to resign from the force.


Mr Shatter also revealed he has asked Commissioner Martin Callinan to examine officers accessing and using information on the internal Pulse System, which logs investigations.


"It should in no circumstances be used as some sort of social network to be accessed out of curiosity by members of the force in circumstances in which such access has no real connection with their duties or work in which they are engaged," he said.


Mr Shatter rejected criticism of the closure of 100 garda stations, noting that Stepaside station, the largest to close, is in his Dublin constituency and three miles from Dundrum station.


On the bitter row over pay cuts, Mr Shatter said it was wrong to say that Agsi and the Garda Representative Association (GRA) had been sidelined in talks.


He accused the two bodies of refusing to constructively participate in the same way as prison officers and members of the Defence Forces.


"And let me also be clear that these talks had actually started prior to the garda associations withdrawing," he said.


"I know that some have described it as a listening exercise rather than talks, but that is because they chose not to talk."


Mr Shatter said the pay cuts are not unfair.


"In fact, great efforts were made to protect the core pay of lower to middle paid workers, but the point is that the place to make any such argument was at the negotiating table," he said.


"It is a pity that your association did not take that opportunity."


However, Mr Shatter said he would consider an Agsi proposal to ask the Garda Inspectorate to review the impact of work and infrastructure reforms.


Some of the policing achievements and reforms this year and last were also set out:


:: Operation Fiacla targeting burglary gangs led to 4,226 suspects arrested and 2,327 charged by the end of February.


:: There has been a 10% fall in burglaries in Dublin.


:: An estimated 100 million euro of drugs were seized during 2012.


:: Cross border fuel laundering busts two weeks ago saw 25 bank accounts frozen and significant sums of cash recovered.


:: 171 new garda vehicles being supplied and 5 million euro to buy and fit out garda transport this year.


:: A new recruitment campaign to keep garda numbers above 13,000 - the force currently has 13,400 officers.


:: Government agreement to appoint 82 sergeants and 34 inspectors from the current panels.


:: Legislation to allow for a DNA database will be prepared by June.


:: New laws planned to force sex offenders to register in person at the garda divisional or district headquarters where they live.


On the continued terrorist threat, Mr Shatter said that in a series of recent operations, significant material had been seized, the activities of dissidents disrupted and lives saved.


He described the groups as "no more than criminal terrorists using violence in pursuit of their own, often personal, ends".


"They have no support in the wider community north and south and many of their activities, including drug smuggling, tobacco and fuel fraud and extortion, are plain, unvarnished criminality," he said.


"Whatever veneer of patriotism these gangs of criminal terrorists may wish to present, the fact is that organised crime is organised crime and they are up to their necks in it."


Mr Shatter paid tribute to murder detective Adrian Donohoe and his bravery and sacrifice in the line of duty during a credit union robbery in Louth in January.


He said he was the victim of a brutal, callous and cowardly murder by thugs with no respect for human life.

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