Belfast Telegraph

Gardai urged to rejoin pay talks

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has pleaded with garda representatives to re-enter pay talks to stave off concerns of a "blue flu".

Amid concerns that officers will breach their oaths and stage unofficial action, the minister said the Garda Representative Association (GRA) can best fight for its members at the negotiating table.

Mr Shatter insisted that relations between him and rank-and-file gardai had not been permanently damaged, despite it passing a vote of no confidence in him.

"I don't think anger or personal abuse is a substitute for positive engagement," he said. "I think it is of great importance that it's understood that what is happening at present are overall talks looking at how we deal with matters right across the public service. I think you're better off being inside the tent talking, than shouting outside it."

Garda commissioner Martin Callinan agreed to meet rank and file gardai after the vote of no confidence in Mr Shatter. He said he would listen to concerns raised by the GRA, which represents 11,300 officers, after it passed a motion requesting he publicly address the negative effect pay cuts could have on morale.

The GRA has not publicly threatened unofficial action or a "blue flu" like 1998 when thousands phoned in sick.

It is understood members in some districts are prepared to break regulations and attend a rally next week against pay cuts dressed in their uniforms.

Mr Shatter warned gardai they must follow orders from the Commissioner while pay talks continue, and urged them not to lose sight of the important role they play in the state.

"The importance of discipline within the force cannot be over-emphasised and it is crucial that rank and file members respect and comply with operational decisions and reforms identified as necessary by those in a position of authority within An Garda Siochana," Mr Shatter said. "Whatever criticism some may wish to voice of me, it is not appropriate that members of a disciplined force engage in public criticism of the Garda Commissioner."

Mr Shatter said it would be wrong for the GRA to lead members down a "slippery slope" of questioning Government decisions.


From Belfast Telegraph