Sunday 17 December 2017

Garda chief to warn GRA on political interference

Barry Duggan and Tom Brady

GARDA Commissioner Fachtna Murphy will issue a stern warning to the leadership of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) today that their intervention into the political arena must not be repeated.

Mr Murphy has summoned GRA president Damien McCarthy and general secretary PJ Stone to garda headquarters to deliver a clear message to them about their future conduct and tell them they must not attempt to politicise the force.

Ahead of the meeting, Justice Minister Dermot Ahern has demanded that the GRA apologise to the Irish people for the "disrespect" they displayed to the State's institutions this week.

Standing alongside each other at a graduation ceremony at the Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary, yesterday, Mr Ahern said the commissioner would speak for him also at today's meeting with the GRA.

"Myself and the Garda Commissioner have discussed this today. The attitude of the GRA was wrong," Mr Ahern said.

"What happened over the last couple of days showed disrespect to the institutions of the State. This is not like teachers' conferences or nurses' conferences. These are the very people who have been given a special position under the Constitution to enforce the law," he said.

"In relation to issues that they targeted in the speeches about corruption, it is completely different. From that point of view, I do think they owe the Irish people an apology for the disrespect they have showed to the institutions of the State. That was exemplified by what was said in the Oireachtas and Seanad yesterday," Mr Ahern commented.

Mr Murphy said he would not say publicly what his words would be to the management of the GRA.

However, he added: "I think I have made it loud and clear since it happened last Tuesday that I don't support any adverse commentary about politicians or anybody else."

"Gratuitous comments about corruption have no place in An Garda Siochana," he said.

Mr Murphy told the 267 garda officers graduating that when they don the uniform of An Garda Siochana, "we put politics and other issues like that aside".

"We have to police this State in an impartial and professional manner," Mr Murphy said.

Mr Murphy added he wanted to state clearly, "there is no place for the gardai in the cut and thrust of political rhetoric and debate".

"We must be conscious at all times not to compromise our independence by appearing to engage in the political arena."


He said gardai "should earn headlines for our successes and achievements rather than court controversy".

Mr Ahern also ruled out any notions of a trade union for the gardai. "I have heard some comments in the last 24 hours about the formation of a trade union.

"As long as I am minister and as long as this Government is in office, there will be no question of the GRA getting trade union status for the very reasons why the gardai were set up originally to be apolitical," Mr Ahern said.

"The straying into politics over the last couple of days ... we can't countenance straying into the political arena because that completely is at variance with the word 'impartiality' which is in the oath of the guards," he added.

Mr Ahern said he believed the GRA had undermined themselves in recent days.

"The rank and file guards -- who I have always had great respect for as a practicing solicitor and a minister -- are badly served by some of the comments that were made in the last few days," he said.

Yesterday, former GRA president Michael O'Boyce declined to comment on Mr Ahern's call for the organisation to apologise to the Irish people.

"I haven't seen it so I have no comment at all to make," he said. "I am now an ordinary member of the GRA so whatever official comment they want to make they can make it."

Mr O'Boyce also declined to comment on calls for his own resignation from the Garda Siochana in light of the controversial planned address that never happened at the GRA conference in Limerick. No one from the GRA was available for comment last night.

Irish Independent

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