GRA accuses Commissioner Drew Harris of ‘inviting conflict’

GRA general secretary Ronan Slevin (Brian Lawless/PA)
GRA general secretary Ronan Slevin (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Garda Representative Association has said its relationship with Commissioner Drew Harris is “in many ways irreparable”, further accusing the top officer of having “invited conflict”.

The deterioration in relations comes after almost 99% of gardai who voted in a ballot organised by the GRA expressed no confidence in the Commissioner.

The unprecedented vote stemmed from discontent within the force, mostly around the commissioner’s plan to return to a pre-pandemic roster from November 6.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris confidence vote
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (Brian Lawless/PA)

In a statement after a meeting with Commissioner Harris on Tuesday, GRA general secretary Ronan Slevin said: “This afternoon’s meeting with the Garda Commissioner was in my view a complete waste of time and I now feel that the GRA’s relationship with him is in many ways irreparable.

“Two weeks ago our membership sent a clear message when almost 99% of those balloted voted No Confidence in his leadership. Sadly, any talks since then to try and repair this damage have failed which completely vindicates the result of this ballot.

“Yesterday we formally wrote to the Commissioner requesting once again that the date for the changing of our roster of the 6th November is removed or deferred to ensure that our members won’t have to change their working patterns twice in a short space of time.

“We even gave a commitment that the GRA would then immediately enter these proposed talks in good faith as we always have, actively trying to find an acceptable solution. It must be remembered that we were the only Association to remain in talks during the 64 days of negotiations at Westmanstown, which highlights our commitment to the process.

“Furthermore, we explained that even if we managed to reach an agreement, our Association would require at least 6 weeks to conduct a ballot of our members, therefore the impending date of the 6th November needed to be addressed as it would not allow for meaningful, open negotiations.

“However, the Commissioner has simply told us today that he is not for moving on the November 6th deadline and that, in his words, ‘the roster will change on that date’.

“It is our view that the Commissioner has now invited conflict and it will be up to our delegates at tomorrow’s specially convened conference to chart the direction of the actions to follow.”

A garda spokeswoman said a final decision on next steps on the roster dispute had not been made: “As part of long standing efforts by all parties to get collective agreement on a new roster, the Garda management side and the four Garda Associations met again today.

“A final decision regarding next steps has not been made. All parties have asked to consider possible next steps. A further meeting has been scheduled for Thursday.”

The GRA is holding a Special Delegates Conference on Wednesday.