Garda chief warns officers against all-out strike

Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy tonight warned rank-and-file officers they could face legal action if they opt for an all-out strike.

Echoing Justice Minister Dermot Ahern’s comments Mr Murphy said a walk-out may leave officers open to potential criminal and civil prosecutions.

The Garda Representative Association is to ballot its members for industrial action over planned pay cuts despite being banned under law.

During a meeting with the GRA the Commissioner produced a letter detailing the legal implications of such action.

A garda statement said: “The Garda Commissioner set out his grave concerns about the proposed action of the Garda Representative Association as announced by them yesterday.

“He provided the General Secretary with a letter setting out the potential civil and criminal legal implications of the proposed action as advised to him by the Attorney General.”

Yesterday GRA officials accepted the unprecedented move may be breaking the law but claimed they had no choice but to act because of the anger of members.

Mr Ahern said the Government would not tolerate law-breakers, including gardaí, and called for cool heads.

He warned officers could leave themselves open to a civil claim for damages.

Mr Murphy and Assistant Commissioner Fintan Fanning met GRA President Michael O’Boyce and General Secretary PJ Stone.

The Commissioner said both men pledged to discuss the contents of the letter with their Central Executive Committee.

The Garda Commissioner is satisfied that this was a constructive and progressive meeting and both he and his Assistant Commissioner remain available for further discussions, the statement added.

Talks on €1.3bn cuts to the public sector pay bill dramatically collapsed on Friday, with the Government vowing to press ahead with wage reductions.

Mr Stone said members would be asked in the ballot whether they would join a possible mass public-sector walk out over the planned cuts to pay and pensions.

The GRA chief said they had not taken legal advice before embarking on the move, which Mr Ahern said was surprising.

Under the Garda Siochána Act 2005, officers are prohibited from withdrawing their labour.

Anyone found guilty of bringing about a strike could be hit with a €50,000 fine, five years in jail or both.

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