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Decision to allow gardaí strike would raise "serious" issues for Ireland

The Council of Europe found that Ireland was not in compliance with a number of articles within the European Social Charter.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

MINISTER FOR JUSTICE Frances Fitzgerald has said if gardaí won the right to strike it would raise “significant issues” for Ireland.

She made the comment as she formally sent in a response to the Council of Europe on the findings of the European Committee of Social Rights that current arrangements for industrial relations in the Garda Síochána are not in compliance with aspects of the European Social Charter.

Not compliant

The committee – in a non-binding ruling – found that Ireland was not in compliance with:

  • Article 5 of the Charter (the right to organise) on grounds of the prohibition against police representative associations from joining national employees’ organisations
  • Article 6§2 of the Charter (the right to bargain collectively) on grounds of restricted access of police representative associations into pay agreement discussions; and
  • Article 6§4 of the Charter on grounds of the prohibition of the right to strike of members of the police.

It also found that there was no violation of Article 5 of the Charter concerning the prohibition of police from establishing trade unions. It established that the police representative associations “enjoy the basic trade union rights” within the meaning of Article 5 of the Charter.

Minster Fitzgerald said she expects that the review of the Garda Síochána under the Haddington Road Agreement will also have regard to these issues.

Right to strike

She noted that the finding in relation to a right to strike “was based on a narrow margin, with strong dissenting views”, and said it does raise “significant and sensitive issues not only for Ireland, where of course the Garda Síochána delivers both the policing service and the security service, but for other Member States”.

These issues will require further careful and detailed consideration and consultation, and the Council of Europe will be kept advised of developments.

Fitzgerald noted that an independent, comprehensive review of an Garda Siochána has begun. “We can assure this Committee however that Ireland takes careful note of the findings of the ECSR on these issues and they will be fully considered,” she said.

With regard to striking, Minister Fitzgerald said in her submission:

It is critically important that the police and security services in the State are fully operational at all times and it must be emphasised that providing a right to strike to members of the Garda Síochána across the country would raise the most serious issues in respect of the capacity of the State to ensure the maintenance of law and order.

These issues require detailed and considered input from various parties including the Garda Commissioner, the Attorney General and indeed Government itself, said Fitzgerald.

She added that Ireland will continue to keep this matter under review.

Originally published 3.27pm

Column: Industrial action by gardaí is unacceptable – and here’s why>

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