‘Image is Garda chief’s top priority’ say mid-ranking officers

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan is “more interested” in the corporate image of the organisation than the lives of gardaí on the frontline, mid-ranking officers have said.

The stinging attack from the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors comes as the AGSI plans to hold a series of escalating protests - including the possibility of gardaí marching in uniform - pickets and work-to-rule actions in a worsening row over pay and negotiating rights.

The head of the AGSI said they had sent the commissioner the results of a survey of its members, in which 86% said morale was low or very low, but had not received a reply.

“We [sent her the survey] in the hope she would look after our welfare and look after our people — we’ve heard nothing since December,” said outgoing president Tim Galvin.

“So it’s more of the same, we are not getting the response from the people, our employer first of all and especially from the minister.”

Commissioner O’Sullivan is not expected to receive a warm reception when she attends the annual conference in Westport this morning.

Mr Galvin said he was “not disillusioned” with the commissioner, but said: “We just feel she’s getting her priorities wrong. She should be looking after people that work for her, the people on the street, the frontline staff, not the corporate image which seems to be the way the job has gone.

“There seems to be no interest in the people who are out there physically being attacked. You saw the results of that report that was done this morning in the paper [Irish Examiner] in relation to 10 times the injury rate in An Garda Síochána compared to average.”

Mr Galvin added: “We feel she is not standing up for people on the frontline.

“She hasn’t come out and said ‘we haven’t enough resources’. We have said it on numerous occasions. She hasn’t come out and supported us and that is why we feel she is more interested in the corporate image, not in the members of the force.”

The AGSI president said gardaí were working 10-hour shifts: “Because resources are so short people are doing that shift without a break. They are on the street call after call. They are physically worn out and at the end of the six-day term all they wait for is their break, because they are physically shattered. They see no compensation, they see no one backing them. They are fed up with it; they have enough.”

Mr Galvin said no other worker had to wear stab vests and use pepper sprays and have extendable batons in their jobs.

AGSI general secretary John Jacob said 93% of members in their survey called for work-to-rule action in respect of a pay restoration claim. He said the survey found 84% said pay was the number one industrial relations issue.

Mr Jacob said pay had been cut by 25% since 2008 among their 2,000 members.

He said there was huge support for a series of actions over pay, access to direct negotiating rights, and a review under Haddington Road Agreement.

“Our members are extremely angry and disillusioned by the failure of the previous government and Garda management to listen to their concerns. They have mandated us to take action in a planned series of protests, including a work-to-rule.”

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