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Tuesday 23 January 2018

Army 'won't step in' as cover for striking gardaí

A soldier and garda at the scene of the an incident in Dublin
A soldier and garda at the scene of the an incident in Dublin

Anne-Marie Walsh

The Army will not step in to cover for gardaí when they strike for the first time in their history, according to the defence force's union.

As a strike looms on Friday week, the deputy general secretary of Pdforra, Gerard Guinan, said the Justice Minister had made it clear there were no plans for the Army to be involved, so it had not issued any instructions to members.

"This is not unprecedented," he said. "The defence forces were not called on when the blue flu took place."

Government sources agreed that such a move is unlikely as Army personnel cannot make arrests and do not have the power to "stop and search" individuals.

A union representing airport police in Dublin, Cork and Shannon said they will resist any attempt to get them to carry out Garda duties when gardaí fail to report for duty for four days next month.

Siptu warned that its 280 members will not provide any backup by carrying out functions like checking passports when gardaí take industrial action in pursuit of faster restoration of pay cuts suffered during the financial crisis.

"Airport police are probably logical candidates for the immigration work, but our members will be carrying out their duties, and not other people's duties," said sector organiser, Greg Ennis. "No one has approached us to do anything else outside that, and if they did, we won't be accepting that."

He refused to say whether the union's position was taken in support of the stance of gardaí.

A second union representing hundreds of Garda civilian staff said it has also instructed them not to provide cover.

The Public Service Executive Union's warning came as the Civil, Public and Service Union told its members to reject any management attempt to get them to cover for colleagues.

With little evidence that much backup will be available, pressure is mounting on Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to give full details of her department's contingency plan if the unprecedented industrial action goes ahead.

A spokesman for the Justice Department said Ms Fitzgerald has made it clear that her focus has been on resolving the dispute.

"Of course, background contingency planning is ongoing. The Tánaiste and the department will continue to liaise closely with the Garda authorities about all aspects of the dispute," the spokesman said.

"The Garda authorities will take whatever measures possible to ensure the best possible policing service remains in place whatever the circumstances.

"There have been public comments already about the association's willingness to provide cover in emergency circumstances. So the question of contingency arrangements is being addressed. However, the focus remains on resolving the dispute."

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors said it had made "no progress" at talks with department officials to avert further industrial action.

It is due to attend talks today, its third meeting in six days.

It has already embarked on a campaign of industrial action after lodging a claim for a 16.5pc pay rise, despite signing up to the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

This Friday, members will not use the Pulse computer system or carry out administrative duties.

"We entered two days of talks last week and gave certain commitments which we fulfilled. However, it is disappointing that we are not in a position to report any meaningful progress," said president Antoinette Cunningham.

Irish Independent

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