Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Garda bodies 'losing their way'

Justice Minister Alan Shatter says garda representative bodies have lost their way
Justice Minister Alan Shatter says garda representative bodies have lost their way

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has accused garda representative bodies of losing their way and doing a disservice to ordinary officers.

In a hard-hitting address to the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) conference, the minister said they had missed the chance to argue their case in public sector pay talks.

He also hit out at the representative bodies for picketing the negotiations and criticised a separate demonstration last week at the Dail.

He said: "I believe both bodies have lost their way, lost sight of the specific purposes for which they were formed and seem to be under the belief that by presenting themselves as some sort of protest movement they are acting in the interest of members of the force. I believe the approach taken is a disservice to members of the force."

Mr Shatter's wide-ranging address to the Agsi conference in Sligo also warned about garda abuse of power.

Referring to officers wiping penalty points, a report on which is due to be handed to the minister shortly, and the leaking of information, the minister said important issues must be addressed. It is understood the garda who blew the whistle on colleagues wiping points is to resign from the force.

Mr Shatter also revealed he has asked Commissioner Martin Callinan to examine officers accessing and using information on the internal Pulse System, which logs investigations. He rejected criticism of the closure of 100 garda stations, noting that Stepaside station, the largest to close, is in his Dublin constituency and three miles from Dundrum station.

On the bitter row over pay cuts, Mr Shatter said it was wrong to say that Agsi and the Garda Representative Association (GRA) had been sidelined in talks. He accused the two bodies of refusing to constructively participate in the same way as prison officers and members of the Defence Forces.

"And let me also be clear that these talks had actually started prior to the garda associations withdrawing," he said. "I know that some have described it as a listening exercise rather than talks, but that is because they chose not to talk."

Mr Shatter said the pay cuts are not unfair. "In fact, great efforts were made to protect the core pay of lower to middle paid workers, but the point is that the place to make any such argument was at the negotiating table," he said. "It is a pity that your association did not take that opportunity."

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