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Hundreds of garda promotions delayed due to an effective work-to-rule by senior officers

Superintendents are refusing to conduct promotion interviews until their pay dispute is resolved.

Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

THE PROCESS FOR filling hundreds of garda vacancies is being delayed due to an effective work-to-rule by senior officers.

At the start of the year, the Association of Garda Superintendents announced its members would refuse to carry out certain additional duties including meetings about the force’s reform plans and training workshops.

The association claims the government had committed to applying the same deal it agreed in November 2016 with rank-and-file gardaí, sergeants and inspectors to senior officers in the force as well.

However, this has not happened, and it means that some gardaí at superintendent level are earning between €4,000 and €6,000 less than the inspectors working under them.

The Association of Garda Chief Superintendents is engaged in a similar dispute with the government.

This was to be the first year that superintendents would conduct first round interviews for garda to sergeant promotions. Before this, all sergeant and inspector competitions were conducted by chief superintendents.

It was decided by superintendents not to take on this additional task as part of their job while the dispute is ongoing. It is expected that chief superintendents will also decline to conduct sergeant to inspector promotion interviews.

The move will mean significant delays in filling up to 300 vacancies for sergeants and inspectors.

Supervision

John O’Keeffe, spokesperson for the Garda Representative Association, which represents rank-and-file members, said that while they understand the frustration that can occur around issues of pay and allowances, they also see the effect that halting these promotions has, both on the individuals’ career paths and on the organisation in general.

“Indeed, one matter that has arisen time and time again over the last number of years has been the fact that a lack of supervision has had on the performance ability of our membership – this has been raised by the Policing Authority, the O’Sullivan Report and more recently, the Crowe Howarth Report. Successive reports have regarded a lack of supervision as a critical missing piece in the jigsaw of sound operational policing,” he said.

“The current freeze on promotion merely compounds this issue and this further reduction in supervisors means more potential problems down the road for the organisation.”

A related issue exists in the Dublin Metropolitan Region. In this Region, there has been no district detective garda appointments for the last decade. The freeze on recruitment was lifted in 2013 yet still there has been no reintroduction of this competition. This matter must now also be addressed without delay.

The 2016 O’Higgins report, which examined allegations made by whistleblower Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe, found that failings in investigations in the Bailieboro district were often due to a lack of supervision of probationary gardaí. During the period the O’Higgins Commission examined, almost three quarters of Bailieboro’s officers were trainees.

In Balieboro district today, probationer gardaí cannot be posted there due to the lack of supervisory sergeants. In 2008, there were 12 sergeants in this district – now there are only seven.

Garda Mick Corcoran, who represents rank-and-file members in Cork city, said gardaí who were going for promotion are worried that the process will take so long the promotions list will be scrapped.

“Obviously, if that were to happen, the prospect of having to go through the process again presents new problems as there would likely be a big increase in candidates, thus lengthening the odds for success,” he told TheJournal.ie.

President of the Assocition of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors Antoinette Cunningham also expressed concern about the delay.

“AGSI previously expressed concern at the lack of sergeants and the continued work overload of our members,” she said. “Any delay in the promotion process is unacceptable from our point of view.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said the minister “has made it clear that he wants to see the issues that have been raised by the associations representing chief auperintendents and auperintendents resolved”.

“His officials have been involved with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in efforts to resolve the dispute, and the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) wrote to the parties on Friday last with proposals to this end,” they said. “The response of the associations to those proposals is awaited.”

An Garda Síochána said it does not comment on industrial relations matters between garda representative bodies and government departments.

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