'Striking gardaí won't be replaced by soldiers'
A government minister has shot down the likelihood of soldiers being called out onto the streets to perform policing duties if gardaí go ahead with their planned series of strikes.
Paul Kehoe, the minister with responsibility for defence, said he did not envisage that members of the Defence Forces would be asked to fill the gap.
He said he was keeping in close contact with Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and a decision on involving the military on strike days would be at her request.
But Mr Kehoe said yesterday he did not expect that to happen. He was speaking in Cork as he was about to address the annual conference of Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association (Pdforra), the representative association for soldiers, sailors and aircrew in the Defence Forces.
A similar view was expressed by association general secretary Gerry Rooney, who said his members would carry out their orders if they were told to become involved in policing and there was no question of them disobeying orders. But he said there was no prospect of them being called out on strike days.
Similar speculation about the military being involved had circulated during the garda blue flu action in May 1998 but they were not asked.
"Our members do not want to be used by a government to break a strike and that would be a clear position.
"The government assured us then that the use of the Defence Forces is to provide an emergency service, not to replicate an entire service. That would be tantamount to trying to break a strike and the Government recognises that," he added.