Garda chief warns: fight crime, stay out of politics
Gardai were ordered by their commissioner last night to stay out of politics and concentrate on fighting crime.
Commissioner Fachtna Murphy told rank-and-file members of his force that he would not be happy if any of them strayed into the political arena.
He spelled out his stance after the president of the Garda Representative Association, Michael O'Boyce, accused the Government of being corrupted by years of power.
In an unprecedented attack by a garda leader on the Government and, in particular, Fianna Fail, Mr O'Boyce alleged that the party had been bought by bankers and speculators.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern dramatically withdrew at the last minute from the association's annual conference in Limerick after studying the contents of the proposed address by Mr O'Boyce to the delegates.
Mr Ahern said last night that no democrat could tolerate such political intervention by any member of a police force.
He said he rejected the allegations in the speech and was confident that they would not be endorsed by the vast majority of rank-and-file gardai.
The minister said the force was ill-served by such political interventions and, as a result, it was impossible for him to attend the conference.
Mr O'Boyce's controversial remarks were included in his intended address to the minister.
But minutes before he was due to speak, Mr O'Boyce decided not to deliver his speech when he learnt that Mr Ahern had decided not to attend the conference.
In his intended address, Mr O'Boyce accused the Government of being "national saboteurs" and said its only agenda was to protect "the economic traitors".
"We are angry at the arrogance of a government corrupted by years of power and that has lost touch with the reality of life on a modest salary," he intended to say.
He also planned to tell Mr Ahern that the Government, of which he was a long-serving member, mismanaged the wealth of the country for more than a decade by allowing the national assets to be robbed by bankers.
"You are making generations of Irish workers pay the price for this treachery.
"You did this because bankers and speculators have bought your party, and in return you have sacrificed the greater good and prosperity of the Irish nation for the benefit of the few -- the few who have now taken their ill-gotten gains and secured them in tax havens around the world.
"Truly, a government of national sabotage," he intended to say. "We are angry that we, our children and our children's children have been sacrificed by this government to protect the people who bankrolled your party and robbed the people.
"Men like Fingers and Seanie were held up by government as examples of entrepreneurial skill but who were nothing more than gombeen men," according to Mr O'Boyce.
It was unclear last night whether Mr O'Boyce was likely to face internal disciplinary action. Mr Murphy said it was not the time to discuss disciplinary action.
Since its foundation, he said, the garda force had served the country with impartiality and operational independence and as commissioner he intended that this policy should continue.
"For An Garda Siochana to continue to be effective, and be seen to be effective, we must stay clear of the political arena and we should play no part in the cut and thrust of political debate," he added.
He urged Mr O'Boyce and his executive to refrain from any unnecessary comment regarding the political process that would compromise their independence and impartiality.
Although he did not deliver his speech, Mr O'Boyce was given a standing ovation by the delegates.
Fine Gael's justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan last night accused Mr Ahern of arrogance and petulance by pulling out of the conference and said his "childish behaviour" bode ill for the Government's efforts to tackle rising crime.