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.