'Walkout' sergeants back down in row with garda chief
FOUR garda sergeants at the centre of a disciplinary row have pledged their full support for Commissioner Martin Callinan.
The pledge followed marathon talks with the garda authorities at the Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary.
The four had previously said they had no confidence in Commissioner Callinan after walking out on him at a conference.
They had been summoned to a meeting with the Assistant Commissioner Fintan Fanning, who is in charge of human resources in the force.
After more than six hours of talks, the four stepped back from their previous statement that they had lost confidence in the commissioner.
But their association leader John Redmond made it clear the meeting centred solely on the comments referring to the commissioner and they remained at odds with Justice Minister Alan Shatter.
An official statement issued on behalf of the commissioner said the four representatives from the Kilkenny-Carlow branch of the association indicated that they meant to cause no offence to Mr Callinan.
The four personally had full confidence in him, and he also enjoyed the full confidence of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors. The statement said the speech by Mr Callinan to the annual conference and his public comments earlier yesterday had been particularly helpful and had reinforced the excellent relations between the two sides.
Garda management had warned that the men's comments to the media, in which they said they had been mandated by their branch in Kilkenny-Carlow to say they had lost confidence in the commissioner, could be construed as a breach of the force's disciplinary code.
Senior officers made it clear to the group that they wanted to adopt a sensible approach to the problem -- and it appeared to observers that the disciplinary threat could be withdrawn if the men reflected on their position and gave their support to the commissioner.
It was felt that if the meeting ended without either the withdrawal of the controversial remarks or a satisfactory explanation of the circumstances in which they were voiced, the men could end up facing disciplinary action.
The sergeants -- Joe Hanley, of Tullow, Pat Baldwin, of Kilkenny, Ted Hughes, of Thomastown, and John Foley, Carlow -- have more than 100 years' service in the force between them and are all highly respected by their peers.
They said they had no alternative as conference delegates but to fulfill the mandate which had been given to them by their branch at an extraordinary general meeting last January.
Mr Callinan said earlier yesterday that the four men should reflect on the way they had behaved.
He said that while people were entitled to protest, "the manner in which they protest is the issue".
He added that it was a time for calm and reflection on what had happened, for the matter to be dealt with and to move on.
An Garda Siochana was a very disciplined force, Mr Callinan said.
The official statement late last night said all parties considered that the issue was now resolved and they were now looking forward to serving the community.
It also said that members of the association would never shirk their responsibility to either the garda commissioner or to members of the public.
Mr Redmond said afterwards that his association had reaffirmed its confidence in Mr Callinan, which had never been an issue.
It fully supported the four men for fulfilling the mandate they had been given and the association felt it was never a disciplinary matter. That had been confirmed at the meeting.