Top ranking Gardaí in demand to form staff association
Senior Garda officers are demanding the right to form their own staff association for the first time.
The Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has confirmed that she is considering a request to amend existing legislation which will enable the Garda Siochana's 12 assistant commissioners to form such a group.
Assistant Commissioners are the only rank in the Gardaí who are banned from having a staff association under Section 18 of the 2005 Garda Siochana Act.
"We did get a request asking that the legislation be changed to allow them (Assistant Commissioners) to set up an association," Minister Fitzgerald told the Irish Independent.
She added: "I am examining it at the moment."
Senior sources say that the unprecedented request is evidence of a "steadily deteriorating crisis" of morale at the highest levels of the Gardaí.
It is understood that a number of "disagreements and divisions" have developed between the Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan and other senior officers in the force.
The two deputy commissioner positions are being filled on an interim basis by assistant commissioners John Twomey and Donal O Cualain.
One of the positions has been empty for over two years while the other was left when Commissioner O'Sullivan took her predecessor Martin Callinan's place.
And earlier this year, Assistant Commissioner John Fintan Fanning sought a High Court injunction preventing the two deputy posts being filled after he was an unsuccessful candidate.
In June the High Court reserved judgement in the case.
This is the first time that an officer of senior garda management rank has publicly challenged a commissioner over a promotion selection process while serving in the force.
Senior sources say that the failure to fill the jobs has led to growing concern in all ranks, particularly when the force is undergoing its biggest overhaul since its foundation.
But a spokesman said: "The Commissioner and her management team are focused on delivering the changes needed to enhance the service we provide to the public and ensuring we continue to protect and support communities."