Former RUC Commander Drew Harris, Ignores Garda Conference?? Some Kick in the Balls here???

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President of GRA hits out at Garda Commissioner Drew Harris for snubbing conference

23rd November 2021

The president of the country’s largest policing union has hit out at the Garda Commissioner for snubbing their annual delegate conference.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) is meeting in Kerry this week to discuss a range of issues including garda suspensions and manpower.

Another key area of concern is the lack of training for new recruits, who are being sent out to the frontline like “lambs to the slaughter”.

Speaking to the Irish Independent in Kerry, GRA president Frank Thornton said that most of his membership’s anger is directed at Garda Commissioner Drew Harris who will not appear at the three-day event.

Mr Harris is attending a pre-planned engagement with Interpol and Deputy Garda Commissioner Anne Marie McMahon will instead address the delegates virtually at the Gleneagle INEC Arena in Killarney.

Asked if he thought the Garda chief not appearing at their conference was disrespectful towards the GRA, Mr Thornton said: “I do, I think regardless we’re the biggest cohort in An Garda Síochána. It would be my number one priority to be here. We are the absolute blood vessel of the whole organisation. I’m not happy with the fact that he’s not here.”

He added that there are fears the concerns raised at the annual conference may fall on deaf ears with the absence of the Garda chief, who is understood to have had two months’ notice about the event.

Limerick garda Frank Thornton also said they are concerned about the lack of consultation between the GRA and senior garda management.

In particular, he said, this related to the creation of the force’s new Anti-Corruption Unit and the events to celebrate the Garda’s centenary anniversary next year.

“There’s a common thread here that there’s a huge lack of consultation with Garda management and our association.

“To be quite honest with you, the longer it goes on the less it’s going to work,” Mr Thornton said.

“There were two meetings, general meetings, but they did not say and give us the courtesy to say, ‘We’re going out tomorrow and launching this’. There was nothing about that.

“I always welcome oversight, governance, that’s no problem. But there is a distinct issue with the fact that in some quarters we are being tarnished, we are being categorised. It’s like this big beating drum, here comes the Anti-Corruption Unit.

“I would have called it the counter-corruption unit. We suggested this by the way,” he added.

Over the next two days delegates representing over 12,500 gardaí from 31 separate divisions across the country will meet for their annual conference.

The key issues set to be raised relate to manpower and resources, the lack of appropriate equipment and training, as well as the Commissioner’s response to the Covid-19 vaccination rollout.

Mr Thornton said another area of concern was the lack of training for new recruits being integrated into the frontline.

He said probation gardaí only undertake a three-week online course and one week in the Garda Training College, Templemore, before being allocated to a garda station.

“(They’ve) no protective equipment no batons no handcuffs. You’re throwing lambs to the slaughter here.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee will also attend the conference via video link to listen to and address the concerns of delegates.

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