With industrial action by gardaí likely to go ahead on Friday and possibly on other dates in November, Shannon Airport will remain open and its security will not be compromised.
Chief Superintendent John Kerin told The Clare Champion he expects that should the industrial action go ahead in its fullest form on Friday, Shannon Airport will still operate.
“We have provisional plans made in the event that it does go ahead. We are confident that no flights will be impacted upon in Shannon,” he stressed.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA) and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) are set to withdraw their labour on this Friday and again on November 11, 18 and 25. The GRA said it will ballot its members on any non-binding recommendations of the Labour Court in relation to the pay dispute while the AGSI is set to attend a Labour Court hearing today.
Gardaí have a role in immigration control at Shannon, while armed members of the force are there at all times.
The absence of large numbers of members of the force on Friday obviously presents a challenge in terms of trying to keep the airport open, but Chief Superintendent Kerin said contingency plans have been made, while there have been discussions with Shannon Airport’s management.
“We have been liasing with Shannon Airport authorities in connection with it. They’re aware of our situation and they will be looking at their own resources and maybe deploying additional resources to various duties in and around the airport,” he explained.
While Shannon remaining open is obviously welcome, the industrial action will provide other challenges around the county. “We have a number of plans depending on the scale of the action,” the garda chief stated.
“In a doomsday scenario, where guards and sergeants decide that they are not going to work, that is catered for as well. We will be working with reduced resources but I am still confident we will be able to cater for the policing requirements in that 24-hour period,” Chief Superintendent Kerin continued.
“It will mean less people putting in a massive effort but we have commitments from people that they are prepared to do that.”
Chief Superintendent Kerin acknowledged that if the industrial action does proceed, there may be a need to prioritise certain incidents over others on Friday. He also said that the public can play a role in making sure that all problems are kept to a minimum.
“People can do a bit to protect their own communities. They need to be a bit more vigilant on the day, maybe check on their neighbours. There will be someone 24/7 at Ennis Garda Station, we will have resources throughout the county who will be in a position to respond if there are calls about suspicious activity.
“We’re not asking people to take the law into their own hands but to be vigilant,” he added.
Chief Superintendent Kerin said he is still hopeful that the industrial action could be averted, but that preparations have been made to ensure a policing service will still be available.
“The reality is if the dispute goes ahead with the GRA and the AGSI, there will be reduced resources available to us but we have plans made to provide the best possible service we can in the circumstances and with the resources that will be available to us.”
Clare TD Pat Breen said he had sought to ensure a solution is found. “I was asked last Thursday evening if I would get the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court to intervene on an ad-hoc basis. I wrote to Kevin Foley (chairman of the Labour Court) and Una Buckley (WRC director general) asking them to get involved in an ad-hoc basis.”
He added, “I would encourage people on both sides to pull back from the brink, it’s not too late yet.”
His fellow Government member Joe Carey said he is pleased that Shannon will stay open.
“It’s positive news for Clare, for people using the airport and for business. I suppose it is unprecedented that gardaí would go out on strike but I am hopeful that a resolution will be found, even at this 11th hour.”
Deputy Carey said standard industrial relations processes need to be available for garda organisations to access going forward.
“In fairness to them, the garda bodies have been looking to get access to the Labour Court and the Labour Relations Commission for years. I’d like to see them getting access to the industrial relations institutions of the State on a more formal basis. The Taoiseach confirmed in the Dáil that the heads of a new bill will be published shortly to allow for that to come about. At the end of the day, you can’t resolve an industrial dispute if you are not around a table and can’t explore various options,” he maintained.