A major row erupted yesterday at the Garda Representative Association conference when members of its central executive were accused of being “out of touch” with the members they represent.
Representatives from garda divisions of DMR South Central (Dublin), Sligo, and Donegal sought the suspension of standing orders to discuss why the central executive had recommended acceptance of a new roster when it was clear the majority of rank-and-file gardaí did not want it.
A nationwide ballot had been taken on the roster and it had been rejected by 70% of GRA members.
GRA president Dermot O’Brien advised that two thirds of delegates attending yesterday’s conference in Killarney would have to vote in favour of suspending standing orders for any likely debate on the issue.
A show of hands was just short of the two thirds required and Mr O’Brien ruled there would be no debate.
His decision sparked shouts from the floor of “scandalous” and “you’re trying to stifle debate” amid demands for a recount.
Mr O’Brien said he had to secure legal advice before a decision was made, and a few minutes later ruled he would permit a debate.
Garda Alan Cummins, based in Kilmainham, said the majority of central executive members sitting at the top table had failed to recognise grassroots’ demands.
Letterkenny-based Garda John Monahan claimed there was “a serious disconnect” between the central executive committee and those they represent.
“I couldn’t go back to my members and say we did not address the elephant in the room,” he said.
“There is serious disconnect but it can be remedied.”
Cork City-based central executive committee member Garda Michael Corcoran, among the minority at the top table against the roster changes, urged there be no split.
He said the time for fighting was over and all GRA members should focus their attention on the battle with government to get their pay restored to pre-2008 levels.
Garda Jim Mulligan, from Blackrock, Dublin, said delegates “needed to deal with the issue and move on”.
Several more gardaí said it was healthy to debate the issue but delegates should not lose sight of the main goal of recouping the 23% pay cut they had taken in the last eight years.
“In Cork, we want our pay back by whatever means we can take,” Bandon-based Garda Mary Galvin said, to much applause.
“Park the roster (issue) and concentrate on pay restoration. We have to go out of here as a united force,” her colleague Martin Hegarty said.
The GRA president wrapped up the discussion when he said “debate is healthy”. Mr O’Brien added: “We will be united walking out the door and a force to be reckoned with.”
The GRA is also fighting to secure pay parity for recruits who entered the force after October 1, 2013.
Limerick-based Garda Cathal O’Gorman said the GRA should make a gesture to the recruits by cutting their subscriptions by 75% and keep the cut at that level until the battle for parity was won.
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