Alternative opportunities to shape modern policing

GRA 35TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE, May 2013EDITORIAL: Mature democratic countries around the world are all looking at ways to encourage citizen engagement and participation; Ireland included.

Newly emerging democracies have a clear collective memory of the struggle to attain suffrage, and the process by which the legitimate voice of a one member – one vote – one value principle, was come by. However, as a democratic country and organisation matures, its citizens or members can become complacent of their voice and both sceptical and disillusioned of its representatives. The best answer to any complainant is to invite them to step up – and at the very least – to engage in debate and vote in elections.

In order to safeguard the future of the Garda Representative Association it is vital that we continue to encourage participation of our members. This is the reason why it is important that the Association is renewed and refreshed by a steady flow of new representatives at the grass-roots level, so that the greatest proportion of Association members can be engaged and active for, at least, some part of their career. Furthermore, it is equally important that some of these new voices with their fresh thinking and new ideas graduate to divisional committees and become delegates to the annual delegate conference where policy is made.

At the national level, we also strongly encourage interested members to put themselves forward as candidates at all levels. It is a measure of the communal strength of an organisation to gain the trust and support of the members within their garda division to properly gauge the issues, arguments and legitimate emotions of members at the coalface. It is the most efficient way to ensure we maintain a robust association.

Academics in industrial relations have found certain patterns in behaviour of members within trade unions and staff associations; that in the early years of a career, members believe they are going to be soon promoted and given a pay rise, so tend to shy away from collective bargaining and action. However, around the ten year mark within an organisation there is a peak change towards collectivism, when for many there is a realisation that their individual idealisms will not attain fruition. In short, many realise they are not going to attain the fast-track promotion they envisaged and their best interests lie with collective achievement.

“We pay tribute to all serving and retired representatives who have served this Association greatly; but there is now an opportunity for a new generation to take up the challenge, step forward and – ultimately – reap the benefits of their efforts.”

No members of the Association were present at the Macushla Ballroom in November 1961; and a diminishing few will remember the formal establishment of the Garda Representative Association in 1978. Those members who fought for the right for representation, a platform for fairness and a forum for legitimacy cannot be taken for granted.

What would the life of a garda be without such collective strength? We contend that without a functioning staff association it would be increasingly prohibitive to efficient and effective policing; to present and explain the value of policing and the inherent difficulties to the wider public has become a role fulfilled directly by this Association.

The role of elected representatives is challenging and rewarding, supporting those colleagues in their hour of greatest need. Many are subject to allegations and investigations following complaints; and while these may be deemed inadmissible or minor, some are prosecuted and taken to the courts. This is where our members require the experience and support of professionally trained colleagues.

An occupational hazard for all police officers is being inversely rewarded; the more effective you are increases the likelihood of complaints against you. Without the diligence of this Association many more members would be suffering.

The Association was built and is maintained by those who gather information and suggest ideas that lead to effective solutions. Through formal negotiations and the media we have our professional voice amplified by our strength of numbers. When numbers are needed to reinforce the claims of leadership in industrial relations disputes – it is those actively engaged who make the difference. Those members who attended the national meeting in Tallaght on 18th February 2013 or those who marched from Parnell Square in 2009 know the value of participation.

For full and in-depth coverage, see the current printed edition of Garda Review.

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