Middle-ranking gardaí seek legal advice over strike plan

Middle-ranking gardaí are seeking advice from their solicitors on the prospect of taking legal action against Government plans to push ahead with proposals denying gardaí the right to strike.

The move follows a meeting of the leadership of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors and a separate meeting between the association and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.

It is understood that the AGSI expressed its concern to the minister at the Government’s decision to implement the Murphy inter-departmental report, which recommended that garda staff associations should not be given trade union rights.

The Garda Industrial Relations Working Group also recommended that the associations should have access to industrial relations mechanisms — but not to a unique wage negotiating system.

The AGSI is also thought to have told the minister that it would be “impractical” to pursue any disciplinary proceedings against gardaí in relation to false breath tests, given that the factors involved in the inflation included systemic failings.

The Murphy group, set up as part of the proposals to end the garda strike a year ago, was comprised of senior civil servants, senior Garda management and the Workplace Relations Commission but did not include garda associations.

The national executive of the AGSI met last week and decided to write to its solicitors to conduct an assessment of the legal situation and whether or not there was a realistic prospect of challenging government actions.

In 2014, the AGSI secured a landmark ruling from the European Committee of Social Rights, in what is known as the EuroCOP case.

The Council of Europe body ruled that the prohibition on the right to strike and collective bargaining and affiliation to other workers’ groups was a breach of the civil rights of gardaí. The ruling was not binding on Ireland.

At the meeting with Minister Flanagan, the AGSI also expressed the view that any disciplinary action against gardaí in relation to inflating breath test figures would be “impractical”.

The association argued that given the report of Crowe Horwath, the independent review conducted for the Policing Authority, had identified a range of systemic factors — including a lack of training, policy and oversight, as well as IT and recording problems — it would not be fair to pick out members for discipline.

Mr Flanagan has already indicated that he expected disciplinary action to be taken.

Policing Authority chair Josephine Feehily has said she expected Acting Commissioner Dónal Ó Cualáin to outline how he intends to progress disciplinary proceedings when he appears at a public meeting with the authority next Thursday week.

Garda associations are waiting to hear the commissioner’s plan before deciding whether or not they need to seek legal advice on the mechanism being used to pursue disciplinary action against members.

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