GARDAÍ will press ahead with their ballot on strike action despite stern warnings from Justice Minister Dermot Ahern.
Mr Ahern last night called on the Garda Representative Association (GRA) to reverse their decision, which he said was “an affront to democracy”.
Yesterday, the GRA, which has almost 12,000 rank and file members, said the ballot papers should be printed in the next two weeks and sent out to members.
The result of the vote would be known towards the end of next month, the GRA stated.
The GRA’s central executive committee concluded two days of talks at their headquarters in Dublin yesterday after which it was announced the ballot would proceed.
The meeting focused on the strong reaction of the justice minister and Garda commissioner, Fachtna Murphy, to the GRA’s announcement last Monday that they planned to ballot their membership. The GRA said its decision was the result of the breakdown of talks between public sector unions and the Government the previous week.
GRA general secretary PJ Stone and president Michael O’Boyce had a meeting with the Garda commissioner on Tuesday to discuss the provisions in the Garda Síochána Act 2005 under which gardaí who strike can be prosecuted.
The commissioner gave the GRA a letter containing legal advice from the attorney general, Paul Gallagher. The content were discussed over two days by the 31 members of the GRA’s executive.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan said the decision by the GRA leadership to ballot their members on strike action was seriously misguided.
“No good can come from the GRA leadership encouraging strike action. At a time when the possibility of grave social and industrial unrest becomes more real as people begin to suffer from the severity of yesterday’s draconian budget, the Gardaí must be seen to fulfil their role as one of the pillars of the security of the state.
“Like many in both the public and private sector, the Gardaí are suffering seriously from the cuts, levies and increased taxes. They must, however, resist any temptation to take the unprecedented and highly misguided step of voting for strike action.
“The minister and Garda commissioner must exert control over the police force of the state. They must do all in their power to avert this short-sighted action, which can only serve to damage the positive relationship between the Gardaí and the general population,” Mr Flanagan said.
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