'Well-paid' gardai are warned off action by Ahern
JUSTICE Minister Dermot Ahern has warned that "well-paid" gardai are not legally entitled to take industrial action.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA) announced last week that rank-and-file gardai would take action over the Government's pay and pension levies.
Around 93pc of those who voted on a GRA questionnaire said the gardai should take some form of industrial action, but not withdraw their services.
However, Mr Ahern said yesterday that the public must have full confidence in a police force that covers crime and national security.
"I don't think people would appreciate the gardai going on strike," he said. "My legal advice is very strong on this and we made this clear before Christmas, that this is something they could not and should not embark on."
During a visit to University College Dublin's Cybercrime Centre yesterday, the minister acknowledged that ordinary gardai were "hurting" in the wake of the public-sector pay cuts.
"But as I said before, the Garda Siochana are very well resourced and indeed well paid in comparison with the rest of Europe."
The most serious measure that could be legally adopted by the GRA is a refusal to work overtime but this would have financial implications for rank-and-file members who are already on reduced take-home pay packets.
Mr Ahern warned the GRA last November that it would be acting illegally if it held a ballot asking gardai to vote on strike action.
The GRA last night said it did not wish to respond directly to Mr Ahern's comments.
However, a spokesman said there was a lot of anger and frustration among members about the pay cuts and pension levy.
The GRA will decide in April what form of action to take.
Jimmy Kelly of UNITE, a member of the executive council of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, called on the trade-union movement to support the GRA's campaign.
He said: "The GRA is being bullied by the State in contravention of every labour law.
"The threat of criminal proceedings against those conducting a ballot of members would be condemned if made in the most totalitarian of states and yet here it goes by with a shrug."