Affair brought shame on gardai
Dermot Ahern, the Minister for Justice, was within his rights to refuse to attend last week's political rally by the Garda Representative Association, but it would have been far better if he had faced the militants head on and reminded them -- robustly -- of their oaths of allegiance and their responsibility to this state.
The attitude of the GRA under the direction of PJ Stone is unconscionable. There is no place in any police force for political bias, no place for grandstanding against the government and no place for disloyalty to the state the gardai serve. Mr Stone's attitude to his own role as a representative of the gardai has moved into the realm of dangerous caricature: a man who should build respect for his members now opens them to ridicule. He claims that ordinary gardai might turn to corruption because of the salaries they earn and his outgoing president rails against corrupt politicians.
Ahern would have done himself, and the nation, a favour if he had stood in front of the GRA and told them, in no uncertain terms, about the meaning of democracy, service and duty. The gardai may have legitimate grievances about the resources available to the force, or the frustrations of the criminal justice system, but they have secure jobs, secure pensions and decent levels of pay. They also have the respect of the Irish people, and will continue to enjoy that respect as long as they realise that Mr Stone and his political fantasies have no place in a national police force. Their job is difficult, dangerous and often under-appreciated but the respect that they enjoy depends on their impartiality and political agnosticism. Once the gardai become embroiled in politics, they lose respect and defile their special place in Irish society.