Ex-council foreman: Gardaí had Uzi guns trained on me

A former council foreman has recalled how members of the Armed Response Unit trained their Uzi machine guns on him during a five-hour stand-off four years ago.

At an Employment Appeals Tribunal in Ennis, Co Clare, yesterday, Joseph Floyd Sr admitted to threatening a garda with a can of petrol as he sat in a van blocking off council contractors commencing a roads job at Feakle.

Mr Floyd said he carried out his protest on May 13, 2010, due to safety fears he had over the council hiring sub-contractors; a council commitment that it wouldn’t hire contractors for such works; and a failure by senior officials to talk with him over his concerns.

At the tribunal yesterday, Mr Floyd denied flicking a cigarette lighter in his other hand or that he had a lighter in his hand at all while in the van.

Mr Floyd said one garda “asked me to step out of the van and I refused and I told him that it was nothing to do with him, it was between me and the council”.

The east Clare man said the garda was agitated, cross, and told him that he was going to break the glass of the van window.

“I thought he was reaching for his baton, so I held up the can. There was no more to it and he just ran,” Mr Floyd said.

Don Culliton, for the council, said: “At some point in the morning, the gardaí arrived and asked you to remove yourself from the vehicle and you threatened a garda with a can of petrol to the point where he ran away.”

In response, Mr Floyd said: “I already said that.”

Mr Floyd told the tribunal that a work colleague told him, “Oh Jesus Joe, the heavy boys are in”, after spotting that the Armed Response Unit had arrived.

Mr Floyd said: “At that stage, they were crawling down the side of ditches and I looked outside of my side window seeing Uzi machine guns trained on me.”

Mr Floyd said: “It is not easy to frighten me and to me, this was a typical bullying exercise and the council was using the ARU and the gardaí to bully a worker.”

Mr Culliton said gardaí were sufficiently concerned to block the road and call in the unit.

The situation was only defused when Mr Floyd received a council letter stating he had not lost his job. However, he was put on administrative leave the next day and later sacked.

At the tribunal, Mr Floyd is bringing an unfair dismissal action against the council for dismissing him in September 2011 after being found guilty of three counts of gross misconduct over bringing the council into disrepute.

The tribunal was adjourned to May 26.

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