Sunday 18 February 2018

Striking officers will have pay docked and may be sued by public - Tánaiste

Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Damien Eagers
Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Damien Eagers
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Striking gardaí will have their pay docked and could even find themselves liable for damages caused as a result of their withdrawal of services, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has indicated.

In a strong warning to officers, the Justice Minister said they will "not have the protections of industrial relations legislation" which could give them immunity in the event their failure to show up for work resulted in injuries to members of the public.

While Ms Fitzgerald describing today's talks at the Labour Court as a "critical" point in the negotiations, she appealed to officers to pull back from their threat.

"The point I would make is that we shouldn't lose sight either of the fact gardaí have taken a solemn oath to protect the public," she said.

"Each garda has to consider whether the action they take is consistent with that."

The looming strike dominated yesterday's Cabinet meeting, with Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe giving a detailed briefing on the state of the public finances.

He received unanimous support from Fine Gael and Independent ministers for not straying outside the Lansdowne Road Agreement, which has been signed up to by over 250,000 public sector workers.

Ms Fitzgerald said her focus is still on finding a way to prevent Friday's action but certain contingency plans are starting to kick-in.

She confirmed the Army will be on "standby" in the event the industrial action goes ahead, but added: "Let's be very clear it's as an aid to the civil powers. They can't replace An Garda Síochána."

Ms Fitzgerald said contingency planning had been ongoing "in the background" for some time but she was limited in what she could say.

"Clearly I have to be careful and the Garda Commissioner has to be careful because there are people who once they are told about the measures will seek to exploit those contingency plans," she said.

"There are criminal elements who would seek to exploit those.

"There is no service that can be provided that substitutes for 12,800 members of An Garda Síochána."

Asked what consequences striking gardaí could face, she said: "Clearly if people don't turn up for work, they don't get paid.

"What is clear is that breaches of discipline can arise if people fail to follow the direction of the Commissioner and there are various other consequences."

Mr Donohoe, who attended a press conference in Government Buildings alongside the Tánaiste, said the same template used to resolve pay issues for firefighters and some teachers would be applied during talks at the Labour Court.

Mr Donohoe said all sides had invested "a massive amount of time" to negotiations in recent weeks and described the intervention of Labour Court as "extremely important".

But he reiterated: "Any proposal that's put forward will be within the framework of the Lansdowne Road Agreement."

Irish Independent

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