Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has described a landslide vote against him by rank-and-file Gardaí this week as a “kick in the teeth” – though he insists he will still not resign.
The unprecedented vote, which was held by the Garda Representative Association (GRA), was the first of its kind in the 100 years of An Garda Síochana’s existence. It was mainly called due to an ongoing dispute between the force’s top brass and frontline officers regarding Garda rosters, which Harris has sought to return to pre-Covid arrangements. The GRA claims that this will have a variety of negative effects on both local communities and Gardaí, such as seeing 20% less officers working at any given time, and adversely impacting on officers’ work-life balance.
Around 10,800 ballot papers were sent to rank-and-file Garda members of the GRA, asking the question “Do you have confidence in the Garda Commissioner? Yes or No.” The question received a response rate of over 80%.
Of those who replied, 98.7% voted no confidence in the Commissioner, with just 1.3% backing him. In raw numbers, just 116 members voted to support Harris, while 9,013 voted against him.
“Whatever the vote is, I’m not leaving”: Members of the Garda Representative Association have voted “no confidence” in Commissioner Drew Harris by an overwhelming 98.7% – though he already said that he would not resign regardless of the result.#gripthttps://t.co/PqjatZUZL1
— gript (@griptmedia) September 13, 2023
Speaking to the media following the results’ release, Harris said it was a “kick in the teeth” and a “heavy blow,” but that he would not resign regardless – a position he had taken longer before the vote. He said that he felt the vote was a personal attack.
“I am hugely disappointed,” he said. “It does feel like a real kick in the teeth. But the thing about this is that I am employed to do a job. I am employed to protect the people of Ireland. I am employed to use our resources to maximise the protections that we do provide to the people of Ireland. And that means a change of roster.”
In addition, Justice Minister Helen McEntee expressed her support for the Commissioner.
“I think this was a hugely personable [sic] vote,” she said.
“I think that it is regrettable that this happened today. I think that the only way that this can be resolved is by people sitting around the table. This is essentially an industrial relations dispute. And the only way you resolve industrial relations disputes are by people getting around the table. That is the best approach here.”
She added: “The Commissioner has my full confidence, and that of the government.”