IT was a case of talking to the invisible man when the president of the organisation representing the country’s front-line gardaí addressed the Minister for Justice.
And maybe it was just as well that Dermot Ahern wasn’t in his chair at the annual GRA conference — but his ears must have been burning.
For the first time in 31 years, a Minister for Justice failed to show at the conference — Mr Ahern citing important business in the Dáil as the reason for keeping him away.
GRA president Michael O’Boyce wasn’t deterred, however, and decided to read out a hard-hitting speech which focused on the Government’s failure to manage the public finances, while severely cutting Garda take-home pay. “The confidence-sapping reality is that there is no coherent plan by this Government to lead us through the bad times, other than to follow the IBEC agenda of dismantling the rights, entitlements and conditions of employment of all workers,” Mr O’Boyce said to loud applause from delegates.
More than 200 GRA members have passed promotion exams, but they can’t be elevated to sergeant rank because of moratorium on promotions imposed by Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan.
“With the Minister for Finance now in charge of Garda promotions where does this leave the commissioner’s statutory autonomy to manage the force? It is less political involvement in garda promotions we need; not more,” said Mr O’Boyce.
Rank-and-file gardaí claim Fianna Fáil has traditionally allowed Garda numbers to fall between elections and the Government is presiding over a halt in recruitment which will leave more people unprotected at a time where public disorder and antisocial behaviour is increasing.
Mr O’Boyce accused the minister of “pushing the force to the brink of disaster”.
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