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thin blue line

'We're living on borrowed money': Middle-ranking gardaí protest over pay

Gardaí protesting today told us how austerity pay cuts affected them and their families. / YouTube

TODAY, ON THE new government’s first day in the Dáil, hundreds of garda sergeants and inspectors marched through Dublin city in a protest to demand a reversal of austerity pay cuts.

They say they have seen cuts of around 25% altogether since 2008 and want the government to sit down around a negotiating table to look at how they might claw some of that back.

Sergeant Kevin Bolger, who is based in Gorey, was there with his wife Ruth and his two children Killian and Jessica.

“It’s not just me that’s affected by this whole thing, it’s the children and it’s Ruth,” he told

We’ve kind of had a look at it and we’re talking between maybe €150 to €180 every week since 2007. It probably started off lower, maybe about €80 to €100 initially, and then over a number of years through all of the recessionary cuts and the FEMPI legislation it’s escalated, but we’re talking about €180 per week.

dav Sergeant Kevin Bolger with his two children and AGSI President Antoinette Cunningham. Michelle Hennesy / Michelle Hennesy / /

“It’s impacting on what the children can do and what people can do, like if you want medical appointments, stuff like that, it’s all money out of the pocket that you just don’t have. There is no spare money,” he said.

For her part, his wife said she has been waiting seven years for a root canal – they just can’t afford it.

“Every spare money we had it has to go toward things like schooling and medical costs. We don’t get anything for free, we don’t even get, as you know, even a dental clean now for free. Every bit of our savings was used to keep the two cars on the road a lot of the time, so it did affect us a lot at the time.”

Ruth said she can see what “a tough time” her husband and his colleagues are going through right now.

When he’s on nights we don’t know if he’s going to come home sometimes, he’s got limited resources and he’s got limited manpower.

‘Living on borrowed money’

Sam Boal / Sam Boal / /

Sergeant Caimin Treacy, branch secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) in Limerick, said whatever disposable income garda families had went out the window in 2008.

“Any prior loans or commitments or anything you’d have, it’s virtually impossible to commit to them longterm. People have lost homes, lost cars, everything else. It’s just next to impossible to keep everything going,” he explained.

You’re living on borrowed money the whole time, you know.

“Foreign holidays are a thing of the past,” he added. “I haven’t been on a foreign holiday in the bones of seven or eight years. Little things, school trips, even simple things like dentists appointments and stuff you’ve to put off.”

Treacy said he is not sure the government either appreciates or understands his job.

However, he said he “couldn’t even dream of entertaining” the idea of a strike, all he wants is “a meaningful negotiation with government”.

‘Time you were rewarded’

The march ended at Government Buildings, where representatives handed a letter to a Department of Justice official.

Michelle Hennessy / Michelle Hennessy / /

“The Tánaiste tells us that she can’t receive our letter herself because she’s managing government business,” John Jacob, general secretary of the AGSI told the crowd, who booed in response.

He said it was disappointing that they had to march, but the lack of government engagement forced their hand.

The public say we do a great job, I know you do a great job on the frontline and it’s time that government rewarded you for doing that.

He said the people marching today put on their uniform every day with the knowledge that they could be exposed to assaults or intimidation.

‘Our people are struggling’

Pay scales for garda sergeants and inspectors range from around €40,000 to €55,000 and he does not believe this is sufficient. They bring years of experience into their positions, he explained, they works nights, weekends and public holidays away from their families. They can also be sued and prosecuted for decisions they make on a daily basis.

 I think that they money they’re getting is small compensation for the job they do.

Sam Boal / Sam Boal / /

The association’s president, Antoinette Cunningham told that it is “becoming unsustainable for some of our people to live on the wage they’re on at the moment”.

Our people are struggling.

She said the campaign will continue until the new government shows it has heard them and is willing to talk to them. The association’s national executive now plans to protest every week – this is just the beginning.

- Filming by Nicky Ryan

Read: ‘Blue wave’ of garda sergeants and inspectors to march on the Dáil today>

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