The Government has been accused of allowing a “Mexican stand-off” to develop leading to the unprecedented threat of a Garda strike today. Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald yesterday made a final plea in the Dáil asking members of the GRA and AGSI to “pull back from the brink”.
Speaking in Belfast, Taoiseach Enda Kenny also encouraged members of both garda representative bodies not to take strike action.
However, Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan accused the Government of managing the dispute “incompetently”.
He said: “The Government has allowed the gulf between it and the Garda to get deeper and deeper. It has allowed a Mexican standoff to develop between it and the Garda associations.”
During Leader’s Questions in the Dáil, he hit out at the Government for allowing the industrial dispute to spiral this far saying that members of the force do not want to go out on strike.
However, Ms Fitzgerald told the Dáil “all of the various mechanisms of industrial relations have been made available to An Garda Síochána”.
She appealed to them to withdraw to allow time and space for the Labour Court to continue its work.
“The GRA has also agreed that a ballot will take place. I maintain we should give time for that ballot and ensure we have the space and time for people to consider what will be on the table after the Labour Court makes its recommendation,” she said.
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However, Mr O’Callaghan attacked the Government for not keeping the public informed of contingency plans. “The people of this country should not be put in a position where they might find themselves without the protection of An Garda Síochána.”
He said that rather than keeping the general public informed the Government has been silent.
Ms Fitzgerald admitted that no contingency plan could replace 12,800 gardaí: We are talking about essential services, keeping our airports and ports open, commerce continuing and responses being made to serious and urgent 999 calls and emergency situations.”
Independent TD Noel Grealish said morale within the gardaí is at “an all time low” and said this is due to the “massive cuts” experienced in the past 10 years. “The recruitment ban, which has been in place for more than seven years, resulted in very few new recruits coming in to keep their numbers up. It has all led to the situation we have today where the amount of anger and frustration within the force is at a level we have never seen before.”
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