Garda 'ready to risk jail' for strike action over pay claims

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Tom Brady

Gardai say they are prepared to risk being jailed for proposing strike action over pay claims.

A strike will be one of the options on the table for members of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors as part of a protest campaign approved today at its annual conference in Westport.

Association general secretary John Jacob warned that unless there was progress shortly on restoring their pay rates to pre-recession levels he would propose a strike at a special delegate conference in June.

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He was given a standing ovation when he said he had booked a family holiday for June but accepted it was possible he could be prosecuted for promoting a withdrawal of labour and end up spending his holidays in jail.

Mr Jacob was promised the full support of cheering delegates as he outlined his potential fate under the Garda Siochana Act.

He said he did not want any conflict but he shared the passion of his members for a restoration of pay levels and he was prepared to break the law although he did not want to go to prison.

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Mr Jacob pointed out that the AGSI was traditionally a conservative organisation but said they had become very militant.

Strategy for the pay campaign will be drawn up by the association's national executive after the conference ends tomorrow.

It is likely to include a march on the Dail, possibly in uniform, on the first day of the new government, pickets outside the constituency offices of TDs and government ministers and culminating in a decision on a strike.

Also under consideration is a work to rule, which would include refusing to carry out after hours administative duties, assigning duties to members of the Garda Reserve, driving a patrol car when nobody of garda rank was available, and possibly not using their personal mobile phones and cars for official duties.

He said those actions would grind the organisation to a halt as the sergeants and inspectors were the pivotal point around which the force revolved.

The conference also heard about the assaults and threats made to gardai while performing their daily tasks.

These included a threat to a pregnant garda that she would be raped.

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan declined to answer media questions about a potential strike when she arrived in Westport.

She later told the conference that the results of an association survey showing poor morale in the force was "terrible but not surprising", given what the force had endured in the past few years.

But she asked delegates to consider the funding that had been allocated to the force to carry out necessary changes, including additional garda cars and vans, new IT equipment, garda recruitment, a raft of promotions as well as money for operational policing.