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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Michael O'Toole

Garda Commissioner says day of action by force representative body will not be a repeat of 'Blue Flu'

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has insisted a planned day of action next week by middle ranking officers will not turn into another Blue Flu 'strike.'

The Commissioner was speaking ahead of Monday’s protest that will see 100 members of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors marching on force HQ in Dublin’s Phoenix Park – in a row over proposed rosters.

But the Commissioner has moved to deny that the day of action will lead to a repeat of the infamous Blue Flue in May 1998 – in which thousands of rank and file gardai effectively went on strike by calling in sick.

READ MORE: Gardaí to take day of action in row over health, safety and welfare concerns in the force

Gardai cannot strike by law - but the officers effectively did just that when they all called in sick on the same day.

That left the force depending on senior officers and trainees to police the state – something the Real IRA terror group tried to exploit by holding up a security van in Ashford, Co Wicklow.

But the terror gang was confronted by the undercover National Surveillance Unit – one of whose officers shot Real IRA man Ronan Mac Lochlainn dead.

An independent inquiry heard that Mac Lochlainn pointed a gun at gardai and pensioners before an officer shot him once in the chest.

But, speaking to Pat Kenny on Newstalk this morning, Mr Harris said he was confident the day of action would not be a repeat of that Blue Flu dispute.

He told the broadcaster: “I don’t think there’s any risk of a blue flu.”

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors met in Athlone, Co Westmeath, earlier this week for a special delegate conference and officers mandated the leadership to launch the day of action.

AGSI said it doing so because of what it claimed was the failure of Commissioner Harris to appropriately address health, safety and welfare concerns in relation to the planned roster changes.

The proposed working time agreement was agreed to by Garda management and the Superintendents Association and the Chief Superintendents Association.

But the Garda Representative Association and AGSI rejected it.

The Commissioner referred the roster dispute to the Workplace Relations Commission last month – but the dispute is rumbling on.

Now AGSI members will on Monday morning march through Phoenix Park to Garda HQ – where body general secretary Antoinette Cunningham and President Paul Curran will hand in a letter of protest for the Commissioner.

Garda Síochána Headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin, where the AGSI protest march will take place on Monday. (Collins Photo Agency)

But Mr Harris told The Pat Kenny Show this morning said he referred the stand off to the Workplace Relations Commission – because talks had gone on so long without a deal.

He said: “We are in negotiations in respect of rosters; these negotiations have carried on for three and a half years - regrettably, without success.

“We’ve exhausted, in my view, the internal mechanisms and I’ve referred the matter to the outside conciliation service of the WRC.

“That’s where we are, we’re waiting for the WRC to commence their work.”

Antoinette Cunningham, AGSI general secretary. (Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors)

Mr Harris also said that An Garda Síochána still hope to meet Government recruitment targets of 1,000 recruits this year- but that the competitive nature of the job market is making that a challenge.

Some 200 trainees were supposed to start in the Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary last month- but only 131 turned up.

Mr Harris said: “We launched a competition last March and that’s running through in terms of people going into Templemore.

“We have a further competition that we’ll launch at the end of this month and what we seek to do then is, the next class coming into Templemore will be a class of 225.

“That’s our aim, so that we meet the Government’s challenge of 1,000 new Gardaí into Templemore.”

Mr Harris also said his officers were keeping an eye on far right activists here, especially in the wake of anti-migrant protests across the country.

But he said he believed there was no real support for the far right in Ireland.

He said: "I don’t think this is going to find the traction that some pretty nasty elements would hope that it would gain."


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