Gardaí risk being sued for failing to go to work

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan will receive a tally early today from local officers as to how many gardaí intend to comply with her order directing them to turn up for work on Friday — the first of four scheduled strike days.

In further pressure on gardaí, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald yesterday warned striking members they faced possible disciplinary proceedings and could even be “sued for damages caused”.

The Tánaiste also told the 12,500 gardaí that they would have their day’s pay docked.

Despite the dramatic interventions, the president of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) Antoinette Cunningham yesterday said their industrial action, as it stood, was “going ahead”.

The AGSI and the Garda Representative Association (GRA) said the decision to withdraw labour was an individual one for members. It is unclear whether or not, and to what extent, the directive will change the decision of members, who will be disobeying a direct order if they strike.

The leaders of the associations were called in to meet the Tánaiste and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe last night.

Sources described it as a “useful exchange of views”.

The GRA has been invited to talks at the Labour Court this afternoon, while the AGSI is expected to be formally invited this morning.

It is unclear if either association would be willing to comply with any Labour Court request to defer Friday’s strike action.

One GRA source said the Labour Court will “have to come up with its recommendation very quick” and that postponing the strike was “not acceptable at the moment”.

The source said a Labour Court recommendation would have a “certain sway”.

In a strongly-worded letter sent to each garda, revealed by the Irish Examiner yesterday, the commissioner said the strike “may irreparably compromise” the Garda’s authority to police the state.

She said there was a “statutory obligation” on garda members to protect the security of the State and provide a policing service.

She “directed” gardaí to make themselves “available for duty” between 7am Friday to 7am Saturday and said local garda management would contact them to “confirm compliance”.

Superintendents and chief superintendents who attended a scheduled meeting yesterday with the commissioner in Dublin were instructed to go back to their districts and inform members and provide a “return” (estimates on compliance) to Garda HQ by early today. Speaking with Mr Donohoe yesterday, Ms Fitzgerald said: “Clearly if people don’t turn up for work they don’t get paid.

“Very importantly, any garda who is involved in the withdrawal of labour does not have the protection of industrial relations legislation from being sued for damages which might be caused,” warned the minister.

Meanwhile, yesterday’s talks between the Department of Education and Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland failed to ease fears that around 500 second-level schools could close indefinitely next week.

News: 7

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