Next week, members of the Garda Representative Association will meet in Killarney against the backdrop of huge unrest in the force over pay and conditions.

The GRA meeting has been preceded by district gatherings, most notably in Cork, where members have said that their pay and conditions, particularly for new entrants is unsustainable. New Gardaí are paid €23,000 per annum and have lost an allowance for rent which was worth over €4000 a year. In fact, Gardaí say their salaries have been cut by 22% since 2009.

It is against the law for Gardaí to strike. When, in 2013, public sector workers took to the streets to protest against austerity, Gardaí who wanted take part had to do so out of uniform. Now they say they are prepared to defy the law and take industrial action and take the consequences.

We asked our Claire Byrne Live/Amárach smartphone panel whether Gardaí should have the right to strike for better pay and conditions and 58% of people said yes, 31% said no and 11% don’t know.

Gardai twitter poll

The result will bolster the Gardaí, who have been pushing the message that they simply can’t live on the starting salaries paid in the force. This is going to be very tricky for the acting Government to handle. Just as in the case of the Luas drivers, any concessions to an individual sector could lead to knock-on demands and more industrial tensions.

That Fine Gael refrain of the election campaign about the roaring economy and the chance to ‘keep the recovery going’ is biting back and if it stays in Government, the party won’t necessarily find it easy to dampen the expectations that have been raised among workers.

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