Saturday 20 January 2018

Tánaiste 'allowed a Mexican stand-off' with gardaí on pay

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald Picture: Fergal Phillips
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald Picture: Fergal Phillips
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has been accused of allowing a "Mexican stand-off" to develop with gardaí in the row over pay.

Fianna Fáil's justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan claimed the Government has handled the situation "incompetently" and let it escalate to become "a national crisis".

He directed the stinging criticism at Justice Minister Ms Fitzgerald as she took leaders' questions in the Dáil.

Mr O'Callaghan said that everyone has asked that the strike action be postponed.

"Everyone in this house knows that members of the force do not want to go on strike. We all know that they take their oath very seriously," he said.

He then hit out at how the Government has dealt with the situation.

"To date Tánaiste your Government has managed this dispute incompetently. You allowed a Mexican stand-off to develop between the Garda Associations and the Government," he said.

"Your actions and inactions have had the effect of hardening positions rather than trying to address the legitimate grievances of An Garda Síochána.

"Your Government has allowed an industrial dispute become a national crisis."

Ms Fitzgerald defended the Government's efforts to avert the strike - saying there had previously been agreements with both the Garda Representative Association (GRA) and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) before they fell through.

"That's the history of what has happened," she said, and made an appeal for both organisations to "pull back from the brink".

She said the State's industrial relations mechanisms have been made available to the gardaí.

"I would ask them to suspend tomorrow's action to allow the time and space for the Labour Court to continue to do it's work."

Ms Fitzgerald said that no contingency plan could replace 12,800 gardaí and that there would be a focus on "essential services".

"We are talking about keeping our airports and our ports open. We are speaking about commerce continuing and responses being made to serious and urgent 999 calls and emergency situations," she said.

Independent TD Noel Grealish said morale in the force is "at an all-time low", blaming the reduction in garda numbers in recent years.

He also said there is "anger and frustration" in the ranks and claimed there are gardaí sleeping in their cars because they can't afford a place to live.

Ms Fitzgerald said that gardaí like many others "suffered hugely" during the economic crash. She said she is focused on investing in the force and pointed out that the Government has committed to increasing garda numbers to 15,000.

Irish Independent

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