Garda chief dismisses low morale in force as 'no surprise'
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan has described a survey which showed 86pc of mid-ranking members of the force felt morale was either low or very low as "terrible, but no surprise".
She made the comment while addressing the annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, where a new mood of militancy led to overwhelming support for a campaign of industrial action - up to and including a possible strike - in support of their pay claims.
But the commissioner declined to answer any media questions in relation to the strike proposal or the underlying feelings of anger and frustration among her members about poor pay and conditions.
Instead, Ms O'Sullivan confined herself to a five-minute statement outlining the progress the force had achieved in the past year and the additional funding received for a number of key projects like recruitment, IT improvements and resources such as extra patrol cars.
Ms O'Sullivan said she was under time constraints and did not answer any further questions about the pay fury which had dominated the agenda throughout the morning.
After her speech to the conference, she left for Dublin to attend a security meeting overseas.
She told delegates that up to relatively recently, gardaí had experienced so much criticism that "we went into an automatic crouch. We were scared to put our heads above the parapet."
"And the worst of it happened in parallel with massive cutbacks to our operations and the conditions for our people.
"It is no surprise that the recent survey of your membership found that morale among gardaí was low. Terrible, but no surprise", she added.
She said the real danger was that gardaí did not pause to note when they did something really well.
"The 2016 commemorations have allowed An Garda Síochána to do what we do best: be part of the national community's celebrations while protecting that community's safety - not through force, but with a smile.
"I want to thank all your members for the work they did," Ms O'Sullivan added.
She said recent research had shown that public trust in the force stood at about 85pc.