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Leaders' Questions (Continued)

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 916 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Michael Lowry: Information on Michael Lowry Zoom on Michael Lowry] It has its dangers and risks. The pay, terms and conditions of gardaí have been diminished. Many are under financial pressure and struggling to survive. They feel vulnerable because of their financial insecurity. Their anxiety is a significant distraction and impacts on productivity. If one is not happy in one's job, it has consequences for one's energy, enthusiasm and output. Many members of the force are demoralised and, as a result, less effective.

The State needs to remunerate gardaí adequately and allow them to concentrate on their jobs. The difficult role of a garda should be acknowledged in practical terms. The service of gardaí to society should be properly valued and appreciated. I urge the Minister to resolve outstanding issues in respect of pay and conditions and, in particular, to review the pay of new recruits. How can we expect young and enthusiastic recruits to survive on €23,000 per year? A new recruit leaving Tipperary could be posted in any Garda station from Cork to Donegal without a rental or subsistence allowance. This level of salary is derisory, unfair and unjust and should be remedied by the Government.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I agree with Deputy Lowry. Entrants' pay is an issue across the public service and is not confined to the Garda. All new entrants took a reduction in pay. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has committed to establishing a public pay commission. One of the priority issues that it will examine is entrants' pay. This will provide a vehicle through which the matter can be addressed. I understand that the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality's discussions with the GRA have addressed issues such as the rental allowance.

There is scope for these matters to be addressed under the Lansdowne Road agreement. A number of unions, for example, the TUI and AGSI, have sat down, engaged in discussions and reached agreements within that collective framework. I hope that the GRA and ASTI will do likewise so that we can meet their legitimate needs in an orderly framework.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan This time three years ago, a young man from Finglas had just done his leaving certificate and was thinking of going to Spain - Magaluf or wherever - with his friends. We all know this type of scenario. Instead, he accompanied his sisters to Egypt. They went there on a regular basis because they had cousins in Egypt. They got caught up in the protests of the time. My 17 year old son would probably have got involved. At that age, one stands up for democracy.

In the middle of the protests, the young man and his sisters sought refuge in a Mosque. People know what happened then - the mosque was surrounded, shots were exchanged and everyone inside, including Ibrahim Halawa and his three sisters, were arrested. Ibrahim has been imprisoned for three years. He has been brought to court on 13 occasions, but there has been no trial. No evidence has been presented and there have been no proper procedures. Amnesty International has decreed him a prisoner of conscience and is campaigning for his release.

On 16 August three years ago when his parents first realised that their son and daughters might be in difficulty in Cairo, they immediately rang the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In fairness, its officials stated that they would do everything that they could. However, it is now clear that whatever the Government has been doing is not working. Others have been pardoned and released, for example, Mr. Peter Greste. On Tuesday, the trial was yet again postponed until October by when, we are told, the judge will have had time to review video evidence. Two people were released, but Ibrahim Halawa was not.

What is the Government planning to do in addition? Many Deputies on this side of the House have an interest in the case and have followed it. We have held our counsel, as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has regularly stated that we should not say anything because it had the matter in hand, the case would be dealt with this week and it believed it could manage the situation. That has not worked.

It is important that we get this right. It is important that we send the message that every citizen of this country, no matter his or her creed, is treated in the same way and that we stand up for the rights of our people when they are caught in circumstances in which their rights are clearly being abused.

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