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Garda dispute to 'escalate' after roster discussions 'a complete waste of time'

The dispute between frontline gardaí and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris looks set to “escalate” after discussions at Garda HQ broke down abruptly.

Garda Representative Association (GRA) leaders described the meeting “a complete waste of time” and said its relationship with the commissioner was now “in many ways irreparable”.

The GRA is holding a special meeting of its central executive committee in Kilkenny on Wednesday about which options of industrial action will be aired.

GRA members overwhelmingly voted ‘no confidence’ in the commissioner two weeks ago, in what was an unprecedented move in the 100-year history of the force.

The motion was carried by a majority of 99%. Of the 10,802 GRA members polled, some 116 voted confidence in the Garda chief and 9,013 voted no confidence.

The vote was largely, but not exclusively, related to the commissioner’s decision to reintroduce a previously-agreed roster on November 6, replacing an emergency covid-19 roster that has been in place since March 2020.

'Complete waste of time'

In a statement on Tuesday evening, GRA General Secretary Ronan Slevin said: “This afternoon’s meeting with the Garda Commissioner was in my view a complete waste of time and I now feel that the GRA’s relationship with him is in many ways irreparable.

“Two weeks ago, our membership sent a clear message when almost 99% of those balloted voted no confidence in his leadership. Sadly, any talks since then to try and repair this damage have failed which completely vindicates the result of this ballot.” 

GRA's letter to commissioner

He said the GRA wrote to the commissioner on Tuesday requesting again that the date for the changing the roster of November 6 be “removed or deferred” to ensure that their members wouldn’t have to change their working patterns twice in a short space of time.

“We even gave a commitment that the GRA would then immediately enter these proposed talks in good faith as we always have, actively trying to find an acceptable solution,” Mr Slevin said.

It must be remembered that we were the only association to remain in talks during the 64 days of negotiations at Westmanstown, which highlights our commitment to the process.  

“Furthermore, we explained that even if we managed to reach an agreement, our association would require at least six weeks to conduct a ballot of our members, therefore the impending date of the 6th November needed to be addressed as it would not allow for meaningful, open negotiations.

“However, the commissioner has simply told us today that he is not for moving on the November 6th deadline and that, in his words, ‘the roster will change on that date’.

It is our view that the Commissioner has now invited conflict and it will be up to our delegates at tomorrow’s specially convened conference to chart the direction of the actions to follow. 

 On the day the vote was announced, the Commissioner described it as “a kick in the teeth” and Government leaders and Justice Minister Helen McEntee played down the significance of it.

The Policing Authority also expressed “full and unwavering confidence” in the commissioner.