First women gardaí honoured in Dublin

 

THE FIRST women to join An Garda Síochána gathered in Dublin yesterday to mark the 50th anniversary of their joining the force. Eleven of the first class of 12 female gardaí attended the celebration at Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park.

They had been among 56 male and female recruits who began their six-month Garda training at the Phoenix Park depot on July 9th, 1959. A Mass celebrated at the depot yesterday is the first in a number of official events this year to mark the anniversary.

Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy said the make-up of the force had changed considerably since 1959. There were now more than 3,000 female members, with women accounting for 22 per cent of the Garda. The most senior female member of An Garda Síochána is Assistant Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan.

One of the women who joined in 1959 was Bríd Wymbs, originally from Kinlough, Co Leitrim. She retired as a sergeant in 1993.

She said the public at first was “very surprised” to see women in Garda uniforms on the streets of Dublin. “Myself and another girl were walking along in uniform on O’Connell Street the first or second day we were out. The traffic slowed down and everything came to a standstill. At all the windows along by the Savoy [cinema] and the Gresham Hotel there were people looking out.

“We approached a guard, how innocent we were, and we said to him, ‘What’s going on, is there something happening?’ He said, ‘Would you go away from me, for heaven’s sake, it’s yourselves they’re looking at.’ ”

The other 11 women in the first class were: Mary Gilmartin (native of Galway); Angela Leavy (Dublin); Noeleen McGrath (Cavan); Elizabeth Dwyer (Sligo); Kathleen Kelly (Donegal); Sarah O’Sullivan (Longford); Helena Sparrow (Kildare); Bridgeen Deale (Donegal); Margaret Brown (Galway); Mary O’Donnell (Limerick), and Deirdre Killeen (Dublin).