Bullying a major issue in An Garda Síochána, says officer
‘We were slowly ridiculed. Whatever self-esteem we had coming in was certainly gone’
Sgt Maurice McCabe: he has alleged he was subjected to a smear campaign when he began publicising shortcomings in policing in the Cavan-Monaghan division. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Bullying is still a major issue within An Garda Síochána and even when disciplinary action is taken, sanctions are rarely imposed, a Garda advocacy officer has said.
Sgt Liam Corcoran, based in Cashel, Co Tipperary, said he was subjected to bullying and intimidation when he joined the Garda.
He said that through his advocacy work on behalf of members of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, he saw little evidence that the bullying culture was improving.
Sgt Corcoran said when he entered the Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary, as a recruit in 1993, his class of about 45 young men were brought into a hall on the first night and ridiculed.
“I felt, and still feel to this day, our self-esteem was slowly worn down,” he said.
“We were questioned about our body shapes, our hair cuts, our accents, where we came from and slowly ridiculed. Whatever self-esteem we had coming in was certainly gone.
“And my experience of Templemore training for 22 weeks was a fear of doing the wrong thing, saying the wrong thing and a deep exhalation of relief when we left the place.”
He said in the Garda today, even when members who were being bullied found it within themselves to take action against those targeting them, there was little to show for their courage at the end of the process.
Often sanctions handed down were not carried out, he said, and in many cases the complainant and bully were left to work in the same station.
The Garda’s approach to whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe and others is currently being scrutinised by the Charleton Tribunal.
Sgt McCabe has alleged he was subjected to a smear campaign that extended to the media and politicians when he began publicising shortcomings in policing in the Cavan-Monaghan division and the cancelling of penalty points by gardaí around the State.
Separately, the Agsi conference also debated the need for more media training for sergeants and inspectors.
Sgt Tony Quinn told delegates he had been urged to take the “mushroom approach” to dealing with the media. “Keep them in the dark and feed them plenty of manure,” he explained.
“Wouldn’t it be preferable if the source was named and [Garda members were] trained in media relations?” he said.
In response, the Garda said media training had recently been given to 200 officers, including 24 inspectors, so they could deal with the media on an on-the-record basis, and further training was planned.