Gardai (police) have been confronting government ministers including Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny this week over cutbacks in conditions and closures of police stations.
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter was greeted with silence as he told Garda sergeants and inspectors that their association (AGSI) was doing a disservice to the force by presenting itself as a protest movement.
And in a separate development, Kenny was angrily confronted by a Garda during a whistle-stop campaign tour of Meath East where Helen McEntee is competing in the by-election precipitated by the tragic death of her father Shane.
The Garda, who refused to give his name, elected to also represent the case of other public service workers when he and Kenny came face to face.
He recounted how he had taken his sick daughter to Tallaght hospital near Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day where doctors, nurses, and catering and cleaning staff were all working.
He told Kenny, “You are turning around and cutting their wages and taking other wages including my own which I feel I am entitled to.
“It’s not my fault the economy collapses but I feel I’m being singled out.”
Kenny robustly defended government policies, saying “every public servant from the top down” had taken pay cuts. He criticized the Garda Representative Association for leaving the pay negotiations.
“Fire officers and prison officers were all able to get a settlement and stay on the pitch,” he said.
On the overall situation, Kenny referred to the public expenditure deficit which he described as very tough and challenging.
“Do you think it’s going to sort itself out? You're a Garda, which is a very important job. You’re an intelligent man. Who do you think will pay for the services?” he asked.
Both shook hands at the end, with Kenny praising the Garda for fulfilling an important service in society, and the Garda saying, “We will agree to disagree.”
Meanwhile, at the AGSI annual conference in Sligo Shatter said both it and the Garda Representative Association have lost their way and lost sight of the specific purposes for which they were formed.
Shatter said, “I have to say to you, quite frankly, it would have been much better if your representatives had been at the negotiating table during the recent pay talks. I believe the approach taken is a disservice to members of the force.”
A number of delegates walked out as Shatter began his address, and the rest greeted his comments with stony silence.
Shatter was not concerned by the reception he received. He said there were very few ministers for Justice who had not been given the silent treatment by one or both of the associations.
He said he was delighted to be invited to address the conference and had been met with courtesy and he appreciated that. But it was also important that the Gardai should be informed about the economic reality.
He said the public pay and pensions bill could not be insulated from cuts in the current economic climate.
AGSI President Tim Galvin had claimed Shatter had told “lies” over stations closures.
He said the closure of stations had destroyed the bedrock of the Garda organization, which was the ability of people to live and work in their communities.
AGSI is seeking a review of government policing policies under the current rationalization program.
It says station closures, increased workloads, fleet depletion and the moratorium on recruitment are damaging the force.
It is also calling for Uzi submachine guns to be reissued to all detectives and has called for all plain-clothes officers in unmarked cars to be armed.