Garda chief considers disciplining four over walkout
FOUR garda supervisors face the threat of disciplinary action after walking out of a conference as Commissioner Martin Callinan was about to address delegates.
The unprecedented action by the four yesterday afternoon followed a similar protest on Monday night as the conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) was about to be addressed by Justice Minister Alan Shatter.
Mr Callinan last night strongly condemned their actions and said they were disrespectful to the minister and commissioner of the day.
"It is regrettable that these walkouts happened. I do not condone them and they should not have happened", he said.
He said he had indicated his feelings to the president of the AGSI, whose annual conference was taking place in Sligo.
The commissioner said he would now examine what had taken place to determine if there had been a breach of discipline, but said their actions had been very disrespectful.
Shortly afterwards, the association general secretary John Redmond distanced his representative body from the walkouts and said the comments of one of the protesters that they had no confidence in the commissioner was a step too far.
The four men, who walked out, are all sergeants and are delegates from the Carlow/Kilkenny division of the association.
Spokesman Joe Hanley is based in Tullow, Pat Baldwin in Kilkenny city, Ted Hughes in Thomastown and John Foley in Carlow.
Mr Hanley said they had been mandated to take the action at an extraordinary general meeting of their branch last January.
He said they had no confidence in the minister or in the commissioner.
He said they had lost confidence in the commissioner because he had failed to back his members from rank and file up to sergeant and inspector.
It was a serious step to take, he admitted, and said it was not a personal reflection on the commissioner.
Mr Hanley acknowledged they had embarked on an extreme form of action and said it had not been an easy thing to do.
But they had been mandated to show the feelings of members on the ground and somebody had to take a stand.
"We were given a mandate by our branch and we had to follow their wishes," he added.
Earlier, the commissioner rejected suggestions that he had not led from the front and said he had pushed strongly for the promotion of 82 sergeants and 34 inspectors, which had now been agreed and was about to come on stream.
That was an example of the support he was providing, he said, and he was also pushing for an updating of the garda fleet management.
He told delegates that communities around the country had now come to expect and rely upon the levels of both professionalism and dedication shown by them and by the members they supervised. "We must retain that strong commitment to our communities and not embark on a road which would jeopardise that relationship," he added.
He pointed out that the garda force was not immune from the financial environment or the reductions to public spending.
"The public we serve expect and deserve our utmost commitment and we need to continue to be professional in the way in which we carry ourselves while conducting a very important role in society," he said.
National executive member Larry Brady said morale in the force was at an all-time low and gardai now had to think about going into work. "This does not augur well for the future", he added.