A recently-retired Garda Sergeant, one of the best-known in Donegal, has described as “a joke” the decision of Minister for Justice Alan Shatter to sanction disciplinary action against four garda sergeants who twice walked out of their association’s annual conference this week in protest at his speech.
Former Sergeant Christy Galligan also criticised the role of the Garda Commissioner in the controversy.
Mr Galligan said these are the actions of a minister who is both out of touch and has lost the confidence of rank and file gardai right across the country.
Speaking to the Journal yesterday, Mr Galligan, who was based for years in Inishowen, said neither the minister nor Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, have a clue what is going on on the ground or how angry gardai feel about their policies.
Mr Galligan said: “I went out yesterday morning to place flowers on the grave of a colleague, Garda Robbie McCallion, who was killed on duty serving the people of this country just two years ago. I know about duty, so do most serving gardai, and we don’t need lectures from some pompous politician who spends his time in the safety of the Dail or the law library lecturing the gardai of this country about their duties and responsibilities.”
The former Buncrana- and Burnfoot-based garda, who was both a member of the Assocational of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors and the Garda Representative Association, also claims the actions of both Minister Shatter and Commissioner Callinan could ‘shatter’ whatever morale was left in the Garda Siochana.
“The anger out there is palpable, it is real. The desperation of long-serving members is real. They are voting with their feet. I believe we are now at a situation where 70 per cent of the police have less than ten years’ services. How big do we need to paint the picture? We have lost top people and real expertise. For example, look at Carrigans which was once one of the busiest stations in Donegal. By June I think the full cohort of gardai there will have all gone.
“Cuts in pay, worsening terms and conditions, closure of garda stations have all but destroyed the morale of gardai.”
The former sergeant was equally scathing about the role of Commissioner Callinan.
“Any appointment above the rank of superintendant is a political appointment. The gardai on the ground don’t have any belief or confidence in him. If you talk to any of them on a private level they’ll tell you that he parrots government policy. I haven’t met any member of the force who feels he stands four-square behind the fella on the ground. He can claim that he’s acting to protect the office of Commissioner but that’s not going to wash with anyone”
He concluded: “I’m speaking out in support of my former colleagues. They are not allowed to; it’s amazing in a democracy that people are now allowed freedom of expression.
“When I retired I never thought I would be talking about the gardai but that couldn’t be further from the truth. What is happening now is a travesty.
“I think when this is all over Shatter and Callinan could well have destroyed the finest group of public servants in the country.
Speaking yesterday Commissioner Callinan said the protest should not have happened.
He said that showing disrespect to the minister for justice and the commissioner of the day was not on.