Public support gardai on pay
There is significant sympathy among the public for the position of the gardai in their fight for better pay, according to results of the latest Sunday Independent/ Quantum research poll carried out on Friday evening.
The outgoing president of the Garda Representative Association, Michael O'Boyce, accused the Government of treachery and corruption in a planned speech, but which was not delivered, at the association's annual conference last week. This prompted Justice Minister Dermot Ahern, to boycott the conference and accuse the association of meddling in politics.
In response to the row, Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy said: "For An Garda Siochana to continue to be effective and to be seen to be effective, we must stay clear of the political arena . . .
"We have to police this State in an impartial and professional manner and there is clearly no place in the gardai for the cut and thrust or political rhetoric and debate."
A number of Fianna Fail deputies called for Mr O'Boyce to be sacked from the force, but this suggestion did not find favour with the public. Seventy-five per cent of the 500 people polled did not agree that this action should be taken against the outgoing president.
Several respondents said he was only expressing what many ordinary people actually thought.
Other respondents did not agree with what he said, and felt he should face some sort of sanction, but that sacking him would be too punitive.
"He is a hero, he should not be sacked. He should be promoted. In fact, why not make him Taoiseach," said one man. "He is only saying what we all think," a female responded said. But 25 per cent of those polled believed it was entirely wrong for a serving member of the gardai to make such provocative and partisan political statements and that he should be sacked from the force. These respondents thought his actions were indefensible and that he was abusing his position in making such overtly political statements.
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"A man in his position should not have used that forum to express his views," one man said.
Support for the stand taken by the association's general secretary, PJ Stone, was not as emphatic -- but a majority did not feel he had damaged the force.
Sixty-six per cent believed Justice Minister Dermot Ahern was wrong to refuse to attend the conference. Many said it was cowardly move by the minister and a sign of political weakness.
People pointed out that politicians are quick to take the credit for the building of a new road, or opening of a hospital, but can become prickly when it comes to any criticism or condemnation of their performance.