GRA forced to defend its call for yes vote in referendum

The largest garda representative association has been forced to defend its decision to urge its members to vote yes in the same sex marriage referendum.

A number of members of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) contacted the Irish Examiner to say they thought it was inappropriate for the organisation to advocate a vote in any direction.

A GRA spokesman admitted yesterday that it had received a small number of complaints from its members in relation to the stance the organisation had taken. The GRA posted the call for a yes vote on its Facebook site and a supporting editorial appeared in its official magazine Garda Review.

When asked about his feelings on the issue, Garda Michael Corcoran, a central executive member of the GRA, said he “didn’t believe it was an area the GRA should enter under any circumstances”.

“It’s my belief that as an organisation which has its primary function the betterment of pay and conditions of our members we should not stray into the political arena.

“After all would we get away with telling our members what political party to vote for?” the Cork-based garda said.

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“I’ve had a lot of members giving out about this particular piece and I think it would have been better if it had never been written.”

Garda Corcoran added that there were enough organisations both political and religious pushing their own side of the debate without getting the GRA involved.

However, the GRA spokesman responded by saying the stance came because there were pay and equality issues for gay and lesbian gardaí involved in the referendum.

“If a same sex marriage occurs (legally) it means that gay and lesbian gardaí can then benefit from tax credits from their spouse. Therefore it is a pay issue and within the remit of the GRA to represent its members,” the spokesman said.

“We don’t regard this as a political issue, it’s a moral issue. All trade unions and staff associations have a duty to represent their members.”

He pointed out that in 2009 gardaí had started their own support organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members called G-Force and said he believed there could be anything up to 1,200 LGBT members of the force.

That organisation sent representatives to the annual GRA conference in 2014 and one of its members spoke to delegates about the topic of homophobia in the garda workplace.

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