The government is stepping in this week in a bid to avert a series of daily garda “strikes” next month.
Tanaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said on Monday that she aims to have talks with the Garda Representative Association (GRA) -- the organization representing rank-and-file police officers -- this week to try and avert the stoppages.
Up to 10,500 members of the GRA have voted to walk off the job for 24 hours on four successive Fridays in November.
Up to 2,000 members of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors may decide at conference later this month whether to join the lower ranks in the “withdrawal of service” – the title given to the one-day stoppages because there is a legal ban on gardai going on strike.
The dispute is over pay following wage cuts and deferred increments dating back to Ireland’s financial crisis in 2008.
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Fitzgerald’s signal for talks with the GRA followed Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s observation a week ago that there is no room for maneuver on special pay deals.
“It is not possible to do everything that one would wish to do. We simply don’t have the resources,” Kenny said.
Public concern grew over what would be a near unpoliced country if the sergeants and inspectors join the stoppages.
That would leave a little over 200 trained officers from the rank of superintendent to Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan with 1,100 members of the Garda Reserve, unpaid civilian volunteers, to police a country where the worst gang war in its history has been raging. The battles between the Kinahan and Hutch gangs have already claimed nine lives.
Even if officers investigating and monitoring that war were exempt from joining the stoppages, as has been suggested, there is serious concern it would escalate.
There is also concern that the stoppages are planned at the beginning of the weekends when road traffic accidents are high.
The Irish Defence Force is likely to be called in, even though soldiers don’t have powers of arrest.