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Stay out of politics, garda chief warns officers

RANK and file gardai want the right to lobby their TDs to prevent the closure of garda stations by their commissioner.

They claim that they enjoy the right of every other citizen to communicate with and make representations to their TDs or councillors.

But a directive has been sent to them on behalf of Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan warning that they should not attempt to use influence concerning closures or any perceived closures of stations.

The headquarters directive is now being challenged in the High Court by the Garda Representative Association (GRA).

The court was told that station closures directly affect the conditions of members and was an issue on which the GRA was entitled to make representations.

The directive was sent out in July by the assistant commissioner in charge of human resources, Fintan Fanning, and a response was sent by association general secretary PJ Stone, setting out their concerns about the nature and scope of the directive and calling for its withdrawal.

Garda management will argue that the directive does not deal with a garda's legal or statutory rights to make representations to a Dail deputy or councillor, but that in this case the representations would challenge their own commissioner's prerogative to shut down stations.

The Government has already shut down 39 out of the 703 garda stations in the State. This decision was based on advice given to Justice Minister Alan Shatter by Commissioner Callinan, whose duty is to determine whether more stations should be selected for closure.

A second list of stations is expected to be submitted by Commissioner Callinan to the minister in late autumn.

John Rogers, for the GRA told the court that he was seeking leave to judicially review the commissioner's directive.

Authority

Mr Rogers said the directive was telling members not to communicate with any TD to lobby or influence any future decision of the commissioner without his express authority in the matter.

He told Mr Justice Sean Ryan the directive was aimed at stopping every garda from even approaching his or her representative association about making any representation.

The GRA had written to the commissioner objecting to the directive but had not received any substantive reply, receiving only a holding letter.

It was the case that members of the gardai enjoyed the right of every other citizen to communicate with and make representations to his or her TD or councillor, he said.

Mr Justice Ryan granted the GRA leave to legally challenge the directive on the grounds its members were entitled to be represented in all matters affecting their welfare and efficiency by the GRA and had the right to communicate with the GRA.

The issue will be heard again on November 27.

Irish Independent