There are two issues I wish to raise on this section and on which I intend putting down amendments on Report Stage. However, I wish to get the Minister's view before doing that. I am discussing section 2 of the Principal Act, In the light of experience over the past ten years, why are gardaí excluded from this Act? There was a high profile case where the most senior garda — and I do not want to misrepresent the situation — successfully challenged the method of his leaving office — to put it in the most polite words. There have been a number of cases in recent years where gardaí have successfully challenged their suspension, not under the terms of the Unfair Dismissals Act but under the normal court process. I see no reason that gardaí should not have access to this legislation.
I would like to hear the Minister's views on this matter in light of the fact that, as I said earlier and will repeatad nauseam, anybody can challenge their dismissal. A person does not have to be covered by the Act to challenge the method of their dismissal in the courts, even if they are only one day in the job, have not taken up appointment, or have been there for ten years. What interest has the State in excluding gardaí from access to appeals against unfair dismissal, and in putting them through a convoluted, cumbersome and legalistic approach to get an adjudication as to whether their dismissal was fair, unfair, legal or illegal? How is it in the interest of the State to spend huge amounts of money on lawyers to defend its position should a garda decide to challenge his or her dismissal? Cases of dismissal involving gardaí could be opposed — to use the Minister's words — without necessitating a huge legal team, saving money for the State and ensuring access to the law for everybody. I am confused that the gardaí do not have access to this legislation. There is no issue of security involved. All that is wanted is access to the law and access to a simple system of challenge and of adjudication. The Industrial Relations Act, 1946, excluded civil servants from a variety of labour legislation.
We are part of a new Europe and this situation does not bear close scrutiny. There is no reason a person in the Civil Service should not have this legislation. Where two people are working in the same building — one for a Member of this House and another for the Department — but both doing precisely the same job, it is unfair that one of them has access to the Unfair Dismissals Act but the other does not. I cannot understand this. I did not put down an amendment at this stage because I want to hear the Minister's view. I cannot accept that a group of workers do not have access because they are employed by the State. I discussed this with one of the employer organisations some months back and I wondered why they were not firm about this in their dealings with the State.