Garda strike ‘would bring fear to the streets’

A Garda strike would bring fear to the streets and damage public confidence in the force, groups have warned.

Organisations representing businesses and vulnerable groups have joined with the Policing Authority and politicians in calling for urgent talks to avert the action.

Seamus Boland, chief executive of Irish Rural Link, said that rural communities had suffered enough with the loss of Garda stations and local patrols.

“Clearly a strike would increase the anxiety which is pretty high anyway among rural dwellers, especially people living alone,” said Mr Boland.

“They already have very poor confidence in the system but if a strike goes ahead, frankly that takes away any veil of security that they have. ”

That view was echoed by Age Action, which said personal security was one of the most common issues the charity was contacted about, by both older people in rural areas and also those in urban areas in fear from antisocial behaviour, late-night drinking, and joyriding.

Spokesman Justin Moran said: “I am certain that among those people the fact that there is the possibility of a Garda strike is going to be a cause of some worry. We would urge all sides to come together to resolve this.”

Retail Ireland, which represents thousands of chain stores and independent shops, said assurance was needed over what contingency would be put in place.

“There is always a concern about security and street security,”said director Thomas Burke. “The Garda Representative Association have said they will provide cover where appropriate but we’ll have to keep an eye on things to see what exactly that means and what gaps there might be.”

Josephine Feehily, the chairwoman of the Policing Authority, said she would also be pressing the Garda commissioner for details of contingency plans.

“I am certainly concerned about the damage to the community confidence in the gardaí,” she said. “We will want to understand, if the industrial action is proceeding, what contingency plans might be put in place. The GRA has talked about emergency services being maintained. We will be anxious to understand what does that mean.”

Justice Minster Frances Fitzgerald and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan both urged the GRA to return to talks. The strikes are planned for November 4, 11, 18, and 25, and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors will meanwhile ballot members on possible action in mid-October.

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