Tánaiste's no-show is proof we've been 'abandoned' - AGSI

AGSI President, Antoinette Cunningham. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Tom Brady

Garda supervisors have delivered a scathing attack on Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald for failing to attend their annual conference.

President of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) Antoinette Cunningham declared last night: "It is no wonder that we feel abandoned by Government."

She told delegates at the conference, which got under way in Killarney, Co Kerry, that the person with overall responsibility for law and order in Ireland had indicated to them that her schedule was too busy to attend "for one hour over the next three days".

The Tánaiste told the association last Thursday she could not fulfil her engagement to address the delegates.

Her speech was initially scheduled for last night but was later switched to tomorrow morning.

Ms Fitzgerald will be in the Dáil to respond to separate Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin motions on confidence in the Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan and senior management and greater powers for the Policing Authority.

Read more: 'We feel abandoned by Government' – Gardaí furious after Tanáiste fails to show for conference

Ms Cunningham said it was very regrettable that the Tánaiste was not there to tell the AGSI what she was doing to steer the force through its crisis and to address the men and women doing their best in difficult circumstances to cope with what was going on.

She said it was extraordinary that Ms Fitzgerald did not turn up and also criticised her for not offering a representative to attend on her behalf.

Ms Cunningham said the force was in crisis and everybody involved had a collective and joint responsibility to make it better.

She recalled that last September the chairman of the Garda pay review, John Horgan, reported that he found huge levels of discontent, disillusionment and anger among members.

She wanted to know what the Tánaiste had done with that information. "Rome was burning but nobody cared," Ms Cunningham said.

AGSI general secretary John Jacob said there was a crisis of confidence in the Garda organisation and it was up to the Tánaiste and the Government to address it. He expressed disappointment that the Tánaiste did not attend, but said his association would face up to it if some of its members were found to be at fault.