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Minister will not attend GRA conference over Commissioner

The Minister for Justice has announced she will not attend the annual conference of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) because the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has not been invited.

Helen McEntee says she engaged with the GRA and asked them to reconsider, and that it would not now be appropriate to attend and would undermine the office of the Garda Commissioner.

The Minister wrote to the Association which represents over 11,000 rank and file gardaí to inform it of her decision to decline the invitation.

The GRA annual conference begins in Mayo on Tuesday.

The Minister is however due to attend the Prison Officers Conference in Sligo two days later, on Thursday of next week, after accepting that invitation.

Two months ago the GRA announced it would not be inviting the Garda Commissioner to address or attend its annual conference.

The association said trust had broken down between them and Mr Harris and accused the him of creating “an overarching atmosphere of fear… by the overzealous application of discipline and oversight” which is impacting the gardaí’s ability to do their job with confidence.

The Association said at the time in light of the fact that over 98% of its members who voted declared no confident in Drew Harris, it “could not maintain credibility” if it afforded him an opportunity to articulate a management message.

Read more: A first in GRA’s history as Commissioner not invited to conference

It also said that morale in An Garda Siochána was “in tatters.”

It is the first time any garda association has declined to invite the Garda Commissioner to its annual conference.

The Minister described it as “a personalisation” of the issues between them, which she regretted.

Ms McEntee said she has engaged with the GRA in recent weeks and asked them to reconsider inviting Mr Harris, but the GRA declined.

She said she has now made the decision that “it would not be appropriate to attend the conference” and that “attendance would undermine the office of the Garda Commissioner.”

It is the first time a Minister for Justice has declined an invitation to attend and address the delegates at conference and comes a week after the Taoiseach stated the Government’s strong commitment to law and order and to supporting the gardaí.

The Minister also said she will continue to engage with the GRA and that she is absolutely committed to making progress on the issues facing the men and women of An Garda Siochána and to working with the Commissioner and representative groups to deliver a number of important reforms.

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