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Commissioner Drew Harris. Alamy Stock Photo

Rank-and-file gardaí vote 98.7% against Commissioner Drew Harris's leadership

Gardaí are in a major industrial relations row with Harris over his decision to push through a controversial work roster.

LAST UPDATE | Sep 13th 2023, 12:30 PM

A UNION REPRESENTING rank-and-file gardaí has overwhelmingly voted no confidence in Commissioner Drew Harris.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) voted  almost 99% in favour of a motion that expressed no confidence in the Garda Commissioner.

Of 10,803 ballots issued, 9,129 were returned; of these just 116 gardaí voted confidence in Harris.

Gardaí are currently engaged in a major industrial relations row with Harris over his decision to push through a working time roster they believe will adversely affect  members.

Other issues cited by the union include the retention of staff, discipline processes and the feeling that gardaí are unable to engage in robust policing in response to anti-social behaviour.

Despite the GRA vote, the Association of Garda Sergeants & Inspectors (AGSI), which represents senior officers, stating its members would accept the proposed roster and that they have not considered a ballot of confidence in Drew Harris’ leadership.

The results were released at an event in Dublin this morning. While sources have not disclosed the results it is widely believed to be a resounding ‘no’ against the commissioner’s leadership.

Ronan Slevin, the General Secretary of the GRA, has said the vote shows that Government must now “listen to frontline rank and file gardaí”.

“This accounted for the largest return in the history of the GRA, and is a loud and clear message that we as an association have lost confidence in the direction that policing is being led in this country,” he said. 

“This result proves that the Commissioner has lost the confidence of an overwhelming majority of the garda force. 

“Government now needs to urgently intervene and make changes to help improve overall employee wellbeing and morale, and provide the public with the policing service that they deserve,” he said. 

At the press conference announcing the result of the vote, Slevin claimed that it showed the leadership of the association was in tune with its members, citing the historic turnout and result.

“Management in the form of government now needs to intervene and make changes to help improve overall employee wellbeing and moral and provide the public with the policing service that they deserve,” Slevin said.

GRA president Brendan O’Connor said the next step would be determined by the response from delegates at its next meeting.

“We are shocked. While we feel that we have been vindicated in our stance and justified in moving this motion, it’s actually a very sad day for policing in Ireland,” he said.

“There is a crisis here. The GRA are effectively trying to put up our hand and say stop.”

A special delegate conference is to be held by the GRA in two weeks time, before which the association wants to see what “action or inaction” is taken by government.

In July the Garda Representative Association (GRA) said that the Commissioner “lacks logic” as he announced the reintroduction of a roster and they claim there are not enough gardaí to fulfill staffing levels of the new arrangement.

On 26 July the GRA leadership agreed on a motion to ballot members on a vote of no confidence in Harris.

Meetings between the organisation and the Commissioner have failed to solve the impasse.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) had voted against accepting the proposed new roster arrangements for gardaí at a conference.

Gardaí currently work a four-on, four-off, 12 hour shift pattern which was introduced as a temporary measure during Covid-19.

The GRA argue that it will cause gardaí to work the proposed six days with four days off rotation – they have said it will cause hardship for members and adversely affect their standard of life, family routine and cost of living.

Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) had voted to withdraw their labour in their roster dispute during a conference in Galway.

However, this morning, an AGSI spokesperson said that the group had sought to return to the six on four off Roster after the Commissioner had given that undertaking to them. 

The AGSI are not conducting a ballot of confidence in the Commissioner.  

In a statement AGSI said this morning that they have issues with the new roster but that Drew Harris’ leadership is not a concern for them.

“The matter of confidence in the Garda Commissioner is not something that AGSI has ever discussed as it simply has not been an issue for our Association.

“We continue to work collaboratively with the Commissioner and Garda Management on the Garda Reform Agenda and while we have issues around the Operating Police Model, recruitment, and retention and some of the new systems being implemented, we are currently in a consultation process with Management on these issues.

“AGSI had sought the return of the pre-Covid Roster which is a roster agreed by all Staff Associations and which we were all working prior to the emergency Covid Roster. We look forward to ongoing cooperation to improve working conditions for our members,” he said. 

With reporting from David Mac Redmond. 

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