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'It's not on' - Garda Commissioner critical of work-to-rule, 'blue flu' threats

Growing tensions between gardaí and the government, which is seeking €60 million in new savings, could lead to protests that would hamper the ability of the force to operate to its full capacity.

GARDA COMMISSIONER MARTIN Callinan has said he would hope that reported threats by gardaí of mass work-to-rule or so-called ‘blue flu’ will not transpire amid tensions over cuts to resources.

The closure of nearly 100 garda stations last week and difficult negotiations over the €60 million that the government is targeting in new savings is leading to claims that gardaí could stage a number of protests in the coming weeks and months.

The Irish Independent reported this morning that a bout of ‘blue flu’ – where gardaí call in sick in large numbers – is being mooted as are possible work-to-rule protests.

It is illegal for gardaí to go on strike but other protests are not being ruled-out.

Speaking at the launch of a new initiative aimed at tackling cyberbullying Callinan said this morning: “I am on no notice that such an event [protests] is planned for the future. Obviously I would hope that something like that would not happen.

“We are a professional policing service, we are the guardians of peace, our job is to ensure that we maintain that peace. Any form of industrial action would mitigate against providing that type of service. It’s not on.”

The Garda Representative Association is meeting with today to consider its position in relation to talks on a successor to the Croke Park Agreement on public sector pay and reform with the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors having withdrawn from talks last week.

“We hope that people will hang in there and that we reach a satisfactory conclusion for all,” Callinan said of the ongoing negotiations.

On the recent spate of station closures, he said the move was part of a suite of reforms in the force.

“It is incumbent on me that we provide a most effective and most efficient policing service. And it’s about policing through people, not policing through bricks and mortar.

“We fully understand the sensitivities involved and the public perspective around the issue of station closures, and of course it is an emotive issue. But the object of the exercise is to provide a greater and more efficient policing service.”

Asked about the investigation into the murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohue, the Commissioner said “steady progress” was being made. He reiterated an appeal to the public to bring any information “no matter how small” to Gardaí.

He warned that it will be a “slow process”, calling it a “very serious and sad time”.

- with reporting from Sinead O’Carroll

Column: My father was a Garda – I’ve seen what they have to go through.

Read: AGSI demands ‘actions not words’ from Noonan over garda pay talks

Read: GRA rejects proposed cuts to garda pay and allowances

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