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Garda mobile phone protest is underway

THOUSANDS of gardai began a 'work-to-rule' today -- the first action of its kind in the history of the force.

The so-called "withdrawal of goodwill" by 11,000 members is in protest over public sector pay cuts and the pension levy.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has said its members are refusing to use their own mobile phones, laptops and cameras in the course of their professional duties. Gardai also refused to answer work-related calls on their own mobile phones as part of the protests.

They are continuing to use their own cars on duty -- as they are paid a mileage allowance.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said that he did not expect any deterioration in the service provided by the police in light of the action.

The GRA said its members have already informed their superior officers in writing of the action, which is the first stage in its response to the wage reductions and pension levy.

Commenting earlier this month, Garda Damien McCarthy of the GRA said officers around the country would begin the action from today.

In February, rank and file gardai said overwhelmingly that they would be in favour of taking industrial action.

Some 93pc of respondents to a survey of gardai backed protests that stopped short of a withdrawal of service.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said at the time that the Government would not tolerate industrial action.

In December, the GRA had announced that it planned to ballot its members on possible strikes. The decision was seen as controversial, as gardai take an oath of loyalty to the State and are banned from striking.

The GRA was forced into a climb down when Mr Ahern and Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy both pointed out that a member of the Garda withdrawing their service or inducing others to do so was a committing a criminal offence.

The GRA abandoned its ballot plans in favour of a survey.

Gardai are also banned from joining a trade union and the GRA was not directly involved in recent talks on public sector savings.