Monday 18 December 2017

Taoiseach puts out direct appeal to gardaí and teachers

Taoiseach Enda Kenny Picture: PA
Taoiseach Enda Kenny Picture: PA
John Downing

John Downing

With more hope than any sign of confidence, the Taoiseach urged gardaí and secondary teachers to settle rather than strike. Most people around Leinster House felt there was little hope the secondary teachers' first stoppage tomorrow can be stopped.

But Enda Kenny came under sustained Dáil pressure from Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Labour on the prospect of closed schools and communities without police in the near future.

Mr Kenny said negotiations in both disputes were now "at a very sensitive stage". And, in not so many words, signalled he must choose his own words with care. He was conscious the teachers' union, the ASTI, and the two garda groups, the GRA and ASTI, were locked in negotiations.

"I do hope representatives of the three groups involved will sit again with ministers and their officials and work out, within the constraints of Lansdowne Road, a way forward,'' Mr Kenny added.

ASTI's first one-day strike is followed with the real threat of schools being permanently closed from November 7. Gardaí in both the GRA and AGSI are expected to hold the first of four one-day strikes on Friday week, November 4. It is grim news for any government and easy for opposition TDs to criticise.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin asked if it was Government policy to commit to full pay restoration to newly-recruited teachers eventually. He warned there was a temptation to "punish" the ASTI, which should be resisted.

"The strike is unnecessary and should be avoided because thousands of students will suffer," Mr Martin told the Dáil.

Mr Kenny said the two other unions, TUI and INTO, had negotiated good deals on pay restoration.

"Those benefits are there tomorrow for the ASTI. And I would say to members to reflect very carefully on what their losses are because of failure to agree and negotiate a settlement which two other very substantial unions have put in place,'' the Taoiseach said.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams stressed that gardaí as well as teachers are in dispute and he believed doctors and nurses would soon follow suit.

Mr Kenny said the Government would do everything it could to avoid strikes going ahead. Speaking about the garda pay issue, Mr Kenny said nobody wanted to see 12,500 gardaí withdraw from policing the streets across the country.

Mr Kenny said the Government is committed to giving gardaí access to the Workplace Relations Commission.

As with the secondary teachers, the Taoiseach hoped responsibility would prevail. Was there a hint of buck-passing when he added that the threatened strikes were the subject of "absolute attention'' from the relevant ministers, Richard Bruton and Frances Fitzgerald?

"Everything that can be done, will be done. Nobody wants this to happen," the Taoiseach told Labour leader Brendan Howlin.

Irish Independent

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