Irish Justice Minister cancels appearance at GRA annual conference

Irish Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern cancelled his scheduled appearance at the  Garda Representative Association (GRA) annual conference today after the text of a critical speech to be delivered by the association’s outgoing president, Michael O’Boyce, was circulated.  According to the iol report 

In the speech, Mr O’Boyce was intending to say gardaí and other public sector workers had endured an “unrelenting, distasteful and vitriolic attack from the Government and their wealthy cronies” during the past year and a half.

“This was distasteful and unbelievable considering the role garda take in society,” a copy of the address stated.

“It most definitely verged on incitement to hatred.”

The outgoing GRA president, who steps down at the end of this year’s annual conference, wrote gardai and Irish workers generally have been betrayed by a “self-serving, overpaid, under-worked and dishonest” Government.

“We are angry that we, our children and our children’s children have been sacrificed by this government to protect the people who bankrolled your party and robbed the Irish People,” he wrote.

“We are angry at the arrogance of a government corrupted by years of power has lost touch with the reality of life on a modest salary; if they ever knew it at all.

“A government whose only agenda is to protect the economic traitors.”

Focusing on Fianna Fáil, Mr O’Boyce accused the senior coalition partners of sacrificing the greater good and prosperity of the nation because bankers and speculators had bought the party.

“Truly, a government of national sabotage,” he said.

The government had created a new aristocracy that chooses whether to retain state pensions while still working and spends vast resources on the few, while taking pay from the majority, he said.

Mr O’Boyce also called for policing recruitment powers to be removed from Mr Ahern.

Policing numbers was being used as an election gimmick by Fianna Fáil and the GRA were intent on ending the “obnoxious trick”, he said.

The Irish Times has Dermot Ahern’s response

Mr Ahern said he was extremely disappointed and dismayed to have read the circulated remarks.

The Minister described the speech as an “unprecedented political intervention” by a Garda representative which “have no place in a modern democracy”.

He said: “They besmirch the long-held excellent reputation that An Garda Siochána has earned for serving the people and institutions of this State without fear or favour. No democrat could tolerate such political interventions by any member of a police force.”

Mr Ahern said he refutes “utterly” the allegations made in the speech and that the “force is ill-served by such political interventions. In light of these facts it is impossible for me to attend the GRA conference.”

After Dermot Ahern’s withdrawal, the speech was pulled.  But the mood at the conference was clearly hostile to the Justice Minister.  As the Irish Times report also notes

Delegates cheered and clapped when GRA secretary general PJ Stone announced Mr Ahern would not be attending.

Prompted by Mr Stone, there was a sustained standing ovation for Mr O’Boyce for having “the courage, the conviction to represent guards in times of need”.

Earlier,  gardaí criticised the Minister over his remarks that the force was among the best paid and resourced in Europe. Delegates at the conference claimed they are enduring third-world conditions in stations around the country.

Garda Ultan Sherlock, based at Stepaside in the Dún Laoghaire division, said it was absolutely farcical that Mr Ahern ranked the force among the best off in Europe, earlier this year. “Our colleagues in Macroom are about to walk out of the station, because they are working in a hovel,” he said. “The Garda training centre is empty, members are leaving everyday.”

Delegates passed a motion condemning Mr Ahern as being out of touch with the reality over Garda resources.