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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 16 Nov 1961

Vol. 192 No. 3

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Garda Pay Dispute.


asked the Minister for Justice if he is aware of the widespread unrest among members of the Garda Síochána, particularly amongst the younger members of the force, at the poor rate of remuneration paid to them; and, if so, if he will take immediate steps to increase their weekly pay.


asked the Minister for Justice if he will make a statement regarding the Garda pay dispute.


asked the Minister for Justice if he is, or has been, aware of dissatisfaction among the members of the Garda Síochána about the recent pay order; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


asked the Minister for Justice whether in view of the widespread dissatisfaction among the Gardaí about the recent pay award and about pay and conditions generally in the force he will take steps to have an independent arbitration board appointed to make a thorough investigation into the award; and whether he will ensure that pending the findings of such a board the status quo will be preserved and that no disciplinary action will be taken against any member of the force.


andMr. McQuillan asked the Minister for Justice what is the present position in regard to a settlement of the grievances of the younger members of the Garda Síochána arising out of the recent proposed pay increases.


Mr. Ryan

asked the Minister for Justice if in view of the widespread discontent in the Garda Síochána regarding pay, allowances, changes, promotions and the disciplinary regulations he will take such steps as may be necessary to have the causes of discontent examined by an independent commission or arbitration board.


asked the Minister for Justice if he is aware of the dissatisfaction which exists among members of the Garda over the recent pay award; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


asked the Minister for Justice in connection with the recent dismissal of eleven members of the Garda Síochána what intimation, if any of impending or threatened dismissal was given to any of the said eleven members or of the reason for such dismissal; if the members concerned were given any opportunity to state their position on the matter; and if such dismissals were not in the circumstances contrary to natural justice and fair play.


asked the Minister for Justice if the terms of the recent pay order were made known to the members of the Garda Síochána before such order was made and promulgated; and if such members were given any opportunity to make representations as to the unfairness of such order.

With your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 170 to 178 together.

That is what I call knocking them off.

In accordance with the provisions of the Garda Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme which was agreed to by the Government in June, 1959 at the request of the elected representatives of the members of the Garda Síochána, a pay claim was considered at meetings of the Conciliation Council on 24th and 25th of last month. An offer of increased pay was made by the Official Side. The Garda representatives had, under the Scheme, the option of accepting the offer or of taking the claim to Arbitration. They accepted the offer; and the new rates were approved by the Ministers for Justice and Finance with effect from the 1st November. In accordance with section 12(2) of the Police Forces (Amalgamation) Act, 1925, the draft Order providing for the new agreed rates was submitted to the Garda Representative Bodies. The Order has now been made.

The new rate for male members of the rank of Garda is £8 15s. during their five-months training period; and £9 19s. on completing training, rising by ten annual increments to £14 a week. The new rate shows no change on the former rate for the first four years of service after training although the Garda claim submitted on 28th August, anterior to the proceedings of the Conciliation Council on 24/25th October, in asking for a new pay scale for Gardaí, actually sought a reduction in the annual rates then existing for Gardaí on the completion of training and again after one year's service by £19 and £2 respectively.

When criticising the adequacy of the salary of a member of the Garda Síochána a number of relevant factors must not be overlooked: for example, the maximum salary of £14 per week for a member of Garda rank is exclusive of any element in respect of evaluation of uniform nor does it take account of boot allowance or cycle allowance or detective allowance or plain clothes allowance where members are not supplied with uniform or, where members are stationed in Gaeltacht areas, the additional 7½ per cent. which their salary attracts. In addition Gardaí enjoy medical attention at State expense. Further a Garda to-day with 30 years' service may retire when he reaches 50 years of age with a gratuity of £1,070 and a pension of £7 per week. Nor would it be out of place to mention the promotion prospects of the members of the Force which are really excellent.

As Deputies are aware, meetings have been recently held by a number of the Gardaí contrary to the Disciplinary Regulations and despite warnings by the Commissioner as to the consequences. In addition, "Go-slow" tactics in the performance of their police duties were adopted in a concerted campaign for some days and only ceased on the same day as the Commissioner issued a warning that any Garda found engaging in serious misconduct of this kind would be dismissed forthwith. Secret committees of Gardaí were set up who sought financial assistance from members of the Force and from business concerns. They also sought and got extensive publicity in some newspapers which had the effect of exaggerating the situation and creating unrest and disaffection throughout the Force.

On 8th November, the Commissioner, in accordance with Article 24 of the Garda Síochána (Discipline) Regulations 1926, sought my consent to the dismissal of 11 Gardaí whom he considered unfit for retention in the Force. I gave my consent. Article 24 provides for summary dismissal without notice of members considered unfit for retention and can be exercised by the Commissioner only with the prior consent of the Minister for Justice.

On the following day, I issued a public statement that on receiving an assurance from the Commissioner that discipline had been fully restored throughout the Force, I would be prepared to examine, with a view to improvement if necessary, the workings of the negotiating machinery available to members of the Garda Síochána.

As Deputies are aware, through the intervention of His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin, for whose help I am profoundly grateful, I received over the week-end an assurance that no acts of indiscipline would in future occur. The Commissioner then reported to me that in view of this assurance he was satisfied that discipline was restored in the Force and, that being so, I issued a public statement on 13th November to the effect that I would take steps to examine the question whether any changes are desirable in the arrangements available to members of the Force for making representations on matters affecting their welfare. I also decided, after consulting with the Commissioner, that if any of the 11 dismissed men applied for reinstatement I would accede to an application from him for my consent to his re-appointment. In the result, the 11 men have been reinstated. Furthermore, charges preferred under the Disciplinary Regulations against a number of Gardaí for attending an unauthorised meeting are not being proceeded with.

I have already taken steps to put in motion a departmental enquiry into the manner in which the Representative Bodies are elected and as to how they function and I shall have no hesitation in changing the present procedure or the governing statutory regulations if such a course is found necessary in order to ensure that the members of the Force are satisfied with their machinery of negotiation and that their best interests are thereby served. I know that in this regard I am acting in accordance with the general intentions of the Government to do what they can to promote the interests and welfare of the Force generally, as is evident from the number of important improvements in pay, pension and schemes for providing better housing and barrack accommodation which they have approved in the past two years.

In view of suggestions in Dáil Questions—and otherwise—that a system of independent arbitration should be provided to deal with Garda pay claims I wish to emphasise that such a system has been in operation since 1959. Claims are considered first at conciliation level at which the Garda representatives are free either to accept any offer made or to submit the matter to an Arbitration Board. The Arbitration Board consists of an independent Chairman, at present Mr. T. K. Liston, S.C., nominated by agreement between the Garda on the one side and the Ministers for Justice and Finance on the other side. In addition to the Chairman the Arbitration Board consists of two Garda representatives and two civil servants. Where a majority of the Board are unable to agree in a finding, the finding is made by the Chairman.

Since the introduction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme two pay claims have been determined and the non-pensionable rates of rent allowance have been increased and converted into pensionable pay. The first pay claim, following disagreement at conciliation level, went to arbitration, and the findings of the Chairman were adopted in full by the Government. In that connection, I would refer Deputies to last January's issue of Iris an Gharda, the organ of the Force. At pages 145 to 151 it publishes the arbitration report and in explanation for doing so it gives this reason at the head of page 145:

in order that our members may have an appreciation of the immense amount of work put by your members into the preparation and presentations of the Garda case we print herewith a full report of the proceedings.

This report which was presented by Government to Dáil Éireann shows that the Garda side submitted every possible argument they could think of in favour of increased pay: they mentioned the peculiarities of a policeman's calling, his status in the community, the risks he takes, the pay of neighbouring police forces and so on, in great detail. In return, the official side submitted that the responsibilities and obligations peculiar to the Garda Síochána must be determined by reference to the conditions prevailing within the State rather than to the pay of the police forces of Great Britain and the Six Counties and they compared, amongst other things, the Garda pay with the pay in the Civil Service. All the arguments as to the policeman's status, peculiar responsibilities, etc., were gone into and the Board's findings took them into account.

That then was the position: as from 1st March, 1960, new pay scales were settled by Arbitration for which the provision in this year's Vote to meet pay and pension cost of that award is £500,000.

In December, 1960 the substitution of a pensionable element in pay in lieu of rent allowance is costing an additional £154,000 in this financial year.

Last month another pay claim was the subject of an offer at a meeting of the Conciliation Council which was accepted by the Garda representatives: the annual cost is estimated at £400,000.

I cannot emphasise too firmly that there can be no question of determining claims and proposals relating to conditions of service of members of the Garda Síochána up to the rank of chief superintendent outside of the machinery of the scheme of conciliation and arbitration now in force in which, of course, there is provision for amendment by agreement between the Minister and the Representative Bodies. I am satisfied that this machinery is fully adequate for a proper determination of these matters.

Finally, may I express the hope that we have seen the end of this recent, sorry chapter of events in the history of the Garda Síochána, that nothing like it will ever again occur and that the Garda Síochána will always be that disciplined police force of which the nation has had such good cause to feel proud.

When we strip the Minister's reply of its verbiage, is it not a fact that it was made known to the Government that the dismissals which the Minister stood over and backed up here were found to be illegal and that the Government were in such a position that they were not able to face their responsibilities, which were beyond them, and that were it not for the fact that His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin intervened, the Government would have been in a serious predicament? Is it a fact that it was intended to put into operation here the kind of activities which have been conducted in dictatorships, obliterating the right of people to assemble lawfully and peaceably for the purpose of making their criticisms known, and that, having carried out such a peaceful activity, members of our police force were dismissed in a most disgraceful fashion? Is it not a fact that it was not the Commissioner but the Minister who was responsible, that it was the Minister who directed the Commissioner, and the Minister is now pretending he is the good boy in all this?

The only thing I am trying to pretend, and I am trying to persuade the House that it is so, is that the situation is now fully restored. It is perfectly satisfactory from every point of view and I would deprecate any effort now to interfere with it. Most of the things Deputy McQuillan said are fallacious——

They are not and the Minister knows it.

In particular, that the action of the Commissioner was illegal. I am quite satisfied there was a perfectly legal basis for it.

Would the Minister say whether the pay order has to come before the Dáil and, if so, when?

I do not think it has to come before the Dáil.

The Act of 1925 says it has. Does the Minister know whether it has or not? I suggest that it has and I would ask the Minister on what date it will be given to the House to discuss. It has caused grave dissatisfaction.

I can assure the House that any statutory obligation will be carried out.

May I put this to the Minister? The fact that these occurrences took place in the Garda Síochána recently is a clear manifestation of the widespread discontent among a large number of Gardaí who feel that in being refused any increase in pay, they have been treated unfairly. Is the Minister aware of the fact that because there is only one chairman of the Arbitration Board, who presides over Civil Service arbitration cases, teachers' arbitration cases and Garda arbitration cases, it probably would be from four to six months before that independent chairman could sit in an arbitration case, having regard to, one, the number of cases at present awaiting a hearing and two, to the fact that he is a very busy legal man who is at present engaged in a case which has occupied our courts for two and a half years, so that reference of the case to arbitration does not provide any consolation to the Gardaí concerned?

If the Minister is anxious to bring this to a satisfactory conclusion and not to allow this wound to continue suppurating he should constitute a public arbitration board to enable the case to be submitted for an increase in pay, particularly in respect of the young Gardaí, and the Minister should accept the award of such a board. The problem should be treated as one of urgency. The young Gardaí are not getting a fair deal and it must be brought home to them, by offering them an arbitration board, that the House is prepared to extend justice to them.

I do not understand that there is any dissatisfaction whatever with the arbitration and conciliation machinery. The dissatisfaction is with the method of representation and the constitution of the representative body and this aspect of the matter is having my immediate attention to see in what way this matter of representation can be improved.

May we have an undertaking from the Minister that should the Garda not accept the decision of any new arbitration board, they will not be treated in the dictatorial and arbitrary way in which they were treated recently in being dismissed at short notice and that there will be no more such arguments in the House as there were in the last session concerning the treatment of public servants who were threatened that they would be committed to up to five years imprisonment if they went on strike ——

Tell that to Khruschev.

You are the Khruschevs. There is the dictatorship. They were given ten hours' notice to get out of the Force and then the Government back-tracks when it finds it has made a big blunder and it gets the Archbishop of Dublin to cover it up.

There was no question of the last award going to arbitration. Deputy Dr. Browne is wrong when he said an arbitration award was not accepted by the Garda. It was accepted at conciliation level.

Has the Minister any information as to whether or not the award was, in turn, referred to the ordinary members of the Force? Could the Minister himself say whether or not he considers it unreasonable that these young Gardaí should get together in a ballroom?

I think it would be improper for me to attempt to criticise the decision of the Commissioner in that respect. He is statutorily responsible for the Force.

No; the Minister is.

He is the boss.

In reply to the first portion of Deputy Corish's question, as to whether or not the substance of the award was conveyed to the individual members of the Garda, that was not done and the system never envisaged it should be done. The members of the body coming to the court come as plenipotentiaries.

Would the Minister assure the House that the incidents of the past ten days will be obliterated from the personal files of the eleven Gardaí who were dismissed?

I have no hesitation whatsoever in giving the House an assurance that there will be no victimisation.

Will the records be obliterated from the personal files?

As far as I am concerned, and the Commissioner agrees, the record of the past ten days is no more.

The Minister is aware that the incidents of the past ten days have been recorded on the personal files of each Garda.

I am not so aware.

That record actually must take place. Will the Minister now ensure that it will be obliterated from the files?

I am not aware that anything has gone on to any Garda file.

The Minister has never seen any Garda file then.

Has the Deputy?

What the House wants is an assurance that the men will not be victimised in any way and I am giving the House that assurance.

Sir, is it not five o'clock?

We will go on and finish the business.

Will the Minister ensure that six months hence steps will not be taken to have these men transferred to some remote part of the country or some other penal action taken against them? There are many things the Minister can do now to protect these men against such future victimisation.

I have already indicated that no action of any sort will be taken against these eleven men as a result of anything that has happened in the past ten days.

Will the Minister give the House an assurance that the Garda Representative Body will be abolished as soon as possible as being the whole source and cause of all this unpleasantness?

Not the whole source.

Partly. Will the Minister take speedy steps to abolish this body?

I do not want the Deputy to ask me to criticise the men's representatives.

They are not accepted as such.

The machinery is the most democratic possible and these men were elected under that machinery. I am not going to say whether they did a good job or a bad job because that is not for me to say. They are the men's representatives and they were accepted as such.

When will a new body be elected?

There will be an election in January. In addition to that, I am having the whole machinery examined with a view to seeing whether it can be improved. I think that is as far as I can go.

Arising out of the Minister's statement——

There have been a great many supplementary questions and I am calling Question No. 179.

Arising out of the Minister's statement, will he give us an assurance——

I have called the next question.

There were ten questions collapsed into one. There could have been supplementary questions on each of them.

A great many supplementary questions have been asked already.

Will the Minister give an assurance at this stage——


The Deputy will resume his seat.