Gardaí ‘make civilised living in Ireland possible’ – commissioner

O’Sullivan says Garda admired at home and abroad despite controversies

Nóirín O’Sullivan declined to make herself available to the media for interview, which is customary at passing out ceremonies. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Nóirín O’Sullivan declined to make herself available to the media for interview, which is customary at passing out ceremonies. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The Garda “makes civilised living in this country possible” and was admired at home and abroad as a beacon of 21st-century policing, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has told a graduation ceremony for 198 new members.

She told them the fact they had not lost faith in the force and abandoned their training because of all the recent controversies suggested they would prove very committed gardaí.

“At any stage in the last year any one of you could have said: ‘I don’t believe in An Garda Síochána anymore. I’m out of here,’” Ms O’Sullivan told the passing out ceremony at the Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary.

“You didn’t say that. You stuck with it. And that shows the guards you will be. You’ve shown the belief in An Garda Síochána to which the service is entitled.”

Ms O’Sullivan declined to make herself available to the media for interview, which is customary at passing out ceremonies. However, she gave a wide-ranging address at the ceremony about recent controversies in the Garda and the place of the force in Irish society.

Accountability

She said a unique feature of the period the Garda was currently in was the “repetitive public nature of accountability”.

However, even though the public saw Garda officers appear before the Policing Authority and Oireachtas committees, they were seeing only “a slice of our accountability in action”.

What went unseen was the Garda’s interactions with a range of other oversight agencies. These included the Garda Inspectorate, Garda Ombudsman Commission and, more recently, the Charleton Tribunal.

The Garda was learning to “service” a network of accountability. Controversies would be unearthed but they must be faced and in some cases apologies issued.

Ms O’Sullivan added while she was sure the class “cannot have missed the almost daily coverage about failings or perceived failings” in the Garda, great change was already well advanced.

“You will be the generation who, 10 or 20 years into your careers, will stand proud and say ‘An Garda Síochána has become a beacon of 21st-century policing.’

“In many respects we’re already here. Our renewal and reform programme is second to none. Our code of ethics, likewise.

“We are highly regarded by other police forces throughout the world.”

Public attitude

She said a recent public attitude survey into the Garda, which returned a 91 per cent trust rating, underlined the respect for the Garda despite all the recent controversies.

There were “no ordinary gardaí”, she said. Instead, members had joined with extraordinary ambitions and “for the most part” delivered an “extraordinary service”.

“They make civilised living in this country possible. Your job is to continue that great tradition.”

She told them their job would not be easy.“But let me tell you, when you come back to the station having managed a domestic incident so that nobody is physically hurt, and so the children in the house learn that the man or woman in the dark blue uniform minded them, the pride you will feel will be a justified pride.”

The kindness they would show to members of the public in times of grief and tragedy “may be what allows them to pick up and commit to life”, she said.