THE ‘Blue Wave’ turned out to be an apt name for the first of a series of protests by garda supervisors this summer.
Contrary to forecasts, a bright blue sky stretched over central Dublin and the midday sun beamed down on the heads of the assembled sergeants and inspectors.
And though they did not wear their uniforms, as had been mooted, they certainly came in blue.
There were blue jeans and blue jackets, blue T-shirts and bibs; and even the odd blue cap and runners.
The 300 or so members of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors took a day’s leave and travelled from all over the country.
And they all spoke about the same issues: pay restoration (not increase, they said); negotiation rights; fairness; workload.
Delegates from Limerick were reluctant to share their names, but not their views.
“I’m here for pay negotiations, and manpower,” one said. “We just want them to sit down and talk to us and deal with us fairly,” said a second. Another said: “We don’t want to be doing this, but things are so bad we have to march on the Dáil.”
Brian O’Dea of Garda Headquarters said: “We don’t want to be here, but we’ve lost 25% of our income since 2008.” He said the European Social Justice Committee ruled in 2014 that garda associations should have the right to negotiate.
Store St, and John Jacob, AGSI general secretary.
“The government failed to honour that,” he said. He said gardaí were unique: “Members of An Garda Síochána put their lives on the line every day of the week. No other person has to put on a stab or ballistic vest when they go out to work.”
Maura McGarry from the Longford/ Roscommon branch said she was hard hit, not just with pay cuts, but also the increment freeze.
These increments are highest in the initial years of promotion. A garda for 17 years, she was promoted two years ago. “I’m not getting the increments and I’m 25% down on pay. I’m starting on the ladder so it affects me most.”
Her colleague, who remained anonymous, said the action was about pay restoration “not a pay increase”. He said sergeants and inspectors now had more scrutiny, a higher workload, and fewer staff.
Cormac Moylan of the Westmeath branch said: “It’s very hard to make ends meet now. We are looking for fairness.”
He said they honoured Haddington Road, but that the Government didn’t give them their review on pay. Then they had Lansdowne Road thrust upon them, which they rejected.
“If you buy a car off a fella and it’s a dud, are you going to go back a second time?”
A number of gardaí from Dublin North Central were forthright in their views. The area has been in the news because of the three feud murders since February.
Insp Tony Gallagher said they were down 140 members in the area, a fifth of their strength. He said there was “huge goodwill” among members to work long hours, not take holidays, all to “keep the service going”.
Asked could the commissioner do something to help, he said: “The commissioner could highlight the facts — a huge haemorrhage in members, working hours are longer and we are doing the work of up to two to three people. That would support us. There is huge frustration and a huge desire for stronger action if we are not noticed,” he said.
His colleague, Sgt Albert Bell, said they received huge criticism from the public about garda service in the area, but he said there was not enough of us.
Insp Larry Brady said industrial action was very new to members. “If I was in government, I’d be concerned and act now.”
Carrying placards, their silent protest snaked its way down a busy Dame St and Nassau St, passing bemused locals and tourists.
They were wisely detoured from Leinster House, where a water protest had gathered, and finished outside Government Buildings.
AGSI general secretary John Jacob was applauded as he stood on a step ladder to tell them this was the “first step of a concerted campaign”.
President Antoinette Cunningham came next and told the Government to “sit up and take notice”. They then handed a letter of protest to a representative of Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who was busy on “government business”.
Afterwards, the blue tide ebbed. But it threatens to return, stronger.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved