The President of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) has said that drug testing of gardaí must be “carried out in a fair, measured, balanced and appropriate manner without infringing on members’ individual rights.”
GRA President Frank Thornton made the comments in a statement this evening in which he criticised garda HQ for not consulting the association ahead of an announcement yesterday in which random drug tests for all garda personnel were outlined.
The Garda's Substance Misuse controlled drugs policy was published yesterday and it states not only that drug abuse is not tolerated, but also that "testing of garda personnel and all prospective employees for drugs within the workplace is to be introduced".
Drug testing will be introduced no sooner than six months from now and will be carried out on new recruits and prospective members.
This evening Mr Thornton, whose association represents around 12,000 rank-and-file gardaí, said: “The Garda Representative Association is 100% committed to a zero-tolerance policy on drug-taking by any members of the Force.
“We are at the front line and have seen first-hand the devastation and damage that drugs and the associated criminality inflict on communities.
“As such, we do not oppose random drug testing of our members but we must ensure that any such policy would be carried on in a fair, measured, balanced and appropriate manner without infringing on members’ individual rights.
“Our main concern is with the manner in which this issue has come to light. There has been no finalised document seen or agreed with the GRA regarding Random Testing of An Garda Síochána, nor has the Association been aware that a Policy Document was at such an advanced stage.
“In fact, the GRA were not even informed that yesterday’s press conference launching these policies was scheduled which, we believe, is disrespectful to frontline gardaí and our representation.
“As stated, the GRA is not against drug testing with genuine cause and is willing to work with random testing of its membership up to a fair and balanced level.
“But this was never about testing every member of the Force and Garda staff as a matter of course and we would have severe concerns regarding the privacy, confidentiality and the welfare and wellbeing of all members of An Garda Síochána.
“We are seeking consultation with Garda management as a matter of urgency before commenting any further.”
Earlier today the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors ( AGSI) said its members cannot be tested for drugs without a reason.
It also said it had not been informed about the drug testing process and has not agreed to the garda policies on substance abuse.
The AGSI says it has written to the Garda Commissioner seeking clarity on reports that all garda personnel are to be drug tested.