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Why The Guards Should Get Whatever Pay Rise They Ask For

By niallharbison

December 20, 2016 at 12:10am


We are in a winter of discontent when it comes to sectors of the Irish workforce and how much they are paid. 

Luas drivers, Dublin Bus drivers, teachers and plenty of others are looking for more money as we exit a period of frozen wages and deep austerity. 

After such deep cuts and with the economy feeling like it is rebounding (albeit, slightly), workers feel like they should be getting paid more and industrial action is the route that many of these disputes are taking. 

While we can all argue the pros and cons of each individual dispute, there is one group that we should all be backing collectively. That is An Garda Siochana. 

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It was announced today that they'll be striking for four days in November for the first time in their history. But, in my opinion, it should never have gotten to this stage. 

We've all walked into a Garda station to get our passport forms signed, only to see them working in the toughest and most stripped back working conditions over the last year. 

The stories of using their own phones, working overtime for no extra pay and morale being at an all-time low are a constant cacophony on our airwaves and in print media. Rural Garda stations have been closed and every penny ripped out of a vital service in front of our eyes, as the men and woman who protect us and keep us safe in our beds at night struggle to make ends meat. 

To understand why we should pay them more, we need to look abroad. Look at the relationship that the American public have with their police force, where their actions divide a nation. 

The same is evident in other developed countries, where the police are often seen as an enemy force. The same can't be said in Ireland. 

We've all posed for a photo on a night out, with an obliging Garda smiling as we grab their hat and ask for a photo. We've all benefited from their kind, helping ways. 

No guns. No over-excessive use of force. No overarching use of their power. 

Just decent men and women keeping us all safe, with a smile on their face. All this done with a yellow high-vis jacket on their backs and the mutual respect they have with the general public.

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So when FG Minister Leo Varadkar comes out and says that the Garda striking will "change their relationship with the public forever”, I couldn't disagree more. 

These people have been forced into a corner and have no other way out. They just want to be paid fairly for the important work that they do. 

It is the guards who turn up at Buncrana. At the horrific Carlow tragedy. It is the guards who chase down the murderers, rapists and violent gangs in this country. 

There can be no more important job in a country than policing the State and keeping us all safe. To do so with such pride whilst being so underpaid, with such meagre resources, is a credit to them all. 

Even moreso in a country that welcomes tech giants with zero tax rates. One turns down €13 billion from the world's biggest corporation (Apple). A country that rewards its own politicians a €5k pay hike in the blink of an eye. 

We don't have a ton of cash to go around at the moment but I'd happily take a hit if it meant giving theses guys the payment they deserve. I'd drive on bad roads if it meant saving the required money. We have to be able to find that cash. 

Our society can easily find €100k a year to pay bankers, CEOs and politicians while the gardai have to fight and demean themselves to striking for a couple of extra grand a month. They don't want to strike but we've given them no other alternative.

Nothing is more important than a well trained, well respected and motivated police force. It's time for us all to get behind them.

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