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'Skeletal service': These garda units will work tomorrow as most rank-and-file members go on strike

This is the emergency cover which the GRA wants its members to provide.

THE GARDA REPRESENTATIVE Association has asked a number of units of the force to attend work tomorrow as the rest of its rank-and-file members go on strike.

In a statement this afternoon, the GRA said it is “respectfully suggesting” the following units do not join their colleagues in any industrial action:

  • Emergency Response Unit (ERU) – an armed unit of An Garda Síochána
  • Regional Support Units – also armed units
  • Garda Technical Bureau – mapping, fingerprints, ballistics, photographic sections
  • Critical incident/major emergency response capabilities
  • Communications Rooms
  • Protection & Escort Personnel
  • National Surveillance
  • Static Protection Posts
  • Special Detectives
  • Intelligence Sections
  • Witness Security Programme
  • VIP Protection
  • Garda Drugs Organised Crime Bureau
  • Special Dedicated Embassy Patrols
  • Immigration
  • Forensic Collision Investigators
  • Those attending prosecutions in court
  • Students and Probationers

The association described the service to be provided as “skeletal”. As well as the units above, there will be a couple of hundred senior officers on duty.

It is understood reserve members are unlikely to provide cover for their colleagues, with one reserve member telling they would not “turn around and stab them in the back”.

“The ongoing security of the State, protection of life and the gathering of evidence by these units is paramount and must not be compromised, despite the sense of anger, betrayal and disillusionment that resulted in 95% of the GRA membership democratically expressing their preference for industrial action,” the GRA added in its statement.

Speaking to reporters at the GRA’s headquarters in Dublin today, Ennis said the “vast majority” of his members would not be showing up for work tomorrow. He stressed that the association had “engaged exhaustively” and was critical of government officials for waiting so long to kick off serious negotiations.

The announcement is the first strand of a contingency plan to be made public since the industrial action was announced.

The strike is set to go ahead tomorrow despite talks in the Labour Court over the past 48 hours. The court is currently assessing the submissions made by the GRA last night, but says it needs more time before it can make a recommendation.

Negotiators for the AGSI have left the Labour Court and are now holding a meeting with their national executive to discuss issues raised in this morning’s meeting.

In a statement, the association said this includes discussing a possible ballot of members. They are due to return to the Labour Court at 5pm.

Lives on the line

Speaking about the lack of movement during  discussions, GRA general secretary Pat Ennis said earlier, “The government failed to make effective contingency plans despite five weeks’ warning of withdrawal of services by gardaí.

The recent negotiation process was unnecessarily protracted. The GRA has engaged throughout in a responsible problem-solving manner. This government has perilously gambled with public safety in its treatment of our members.

“History shows that gardaí put their lives on the line to protect the public. To this end, we are doing everything we can to ensure that the risk to the public is contained and minimised.”

Following a meeting of its central executive committee last night, the GRA confirmed it would go ahead with its four planned strike days unless it sees “substantial and significant progress towards real and tangible increases in pay”.

Meanwhile, the Justice Minister has called on the GRA and AGSI to call off Friday’s industrial action.

“The associations should not go ahead with their planned action tomorrow,” Frances Fitzgerald said in the Dáil during Leaders’ Questions.

“I would still appeal to both organisations to pull back from the brink,” she said in response to questions from Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan.

“I would ask them to stand back and suspend tomorrow’s action to allow the time and space for the LC to continue to do its work.”

Contingency plans

Asking for more details on contingency plans for tomorrow if an ‘unprecedented, highly unusual’ strike goes ahead, O’Callaghan accused the government of dealing with the industrial relations crisis ‘incompetently’.

Fitzgerald told the Dáil that she has spoken with Nóirín O’Sullivan about the “nature of the contingency plan being developed”, adding that it cannot be made public for security reasons.

“The Commissioner, of course, has at all times been considering this… she has sent out the letter to ascertain what numbers will be available and I do want to say to the house now that the GRA – in the event of their strike going ahead – have said that they will cooperate with the Commissioner to make sure a basic policing service will be in place so that emergencies can be responded to.”

However, she added: “But let us be clear, if 12,800 gardaí go on strike, there is no contingency plan that can replace that number. We are talking about essential services, keeping our airports and our ports open, commerce continuing and responses being made to serious and urgent 999 calls and emergency situations. That’s the reality.”

Meanwhile, the Courts Service has deferred three sittings of regional courts as a result of tomorrow’s industrial action.

Galway Circuit Court, Waterford Juvenile District Court and Kilkenny Circuit Appeals will all be closed.

All other court matters are expected to go ahead.

In a statement, a spokesperson said that the Courts Service has been liaising with the judiciary and gardaí about Friday’s sittings.

“We have discussed logistical and security issues and have made various, location specific arrangements for same,” he  said.

Unless people see notices to the contrary -  they should assume their court date stands for tomorrow.

“Around the country various local arrangements are being made. If the strike goes ahead each judge will decide how to deal with their list. People should assume their case is on unless a local notice says differently.”

- With reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

Read: Probationer gardaí to owe State up to €800 after pay error>

More: The Commissioner’s directive and the probationers’ payslips – 48 hours of garda fury

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