Minister for Justice Michael McDowell tonight warned gardaí they would be acting outside the law of the land if they did not co-operate with his reserve force.
The Government plans to recruit around 900 volunteers into the Garda Reserve by September to carry out policing duties in the presence of uniformed gardaí.
As the two Garda unions prepared to outline their vehement opposition to the plans, Mr McDowell said the reserve had been approved by the Oireachtas.
“I fully expect gardaí to uphold the laws of the land. The Oireachtas is our constitutional legislature. There is no question of any group in society being able to say that it doesn’t abide by the law of the land or that they will frustrate the implementation of the law of the land,” he said.
Mr McDowell said he had received a report from the Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy on the proposed reserve which emphasised that:
:: Reservists will get 120 hours training rather than the 24 hours claimed by garda unions
:: They will be vetted like normal gardai to ensure there is no infiltration by subversive or criminal elements.
:: They will be subject to the full Garda disciplinary code and will not be allowed to drive vehicles or carry firearms
:: They will be not used to carry out policing duties in their own areas.
The Garda Reserve has led to the biggest clash between Mr McDowell and the Garda unions since he took office four years ago.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA) and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) have described it as ‘unworkable’ and a ‘mad hatter scheme’ and are holding a protest meeting in Sligo tonight to outline their opposition.
Mr McDowell said he would consult with the Garda unions about the formation of the reserve, which will eventually have a strength of 4,000 members.
“The debate has been carried out on a somewhat misleading basis, in that various rumours have been put out about what would have been finally proposed. This is the proposal the Commissioner has made to me.”
He said the Garda Reserve will be a supplementary support, and not a replacement for gardai, and added that he had examined police reserves in other countries.
“There is simply no credible evidence that the existence of a voluntary reserve has had any of the negative effects on those forces that are now being canvassed in respect of the Garda Siochana.”
The recruits will be trained in a variety of locations including the Garda College in Templemore, new regional centres and local Garda stations.