Dismissed gay garda supports Fianna Fáil call for State apology

Drew Harris acknowledged ‘Liam’ sacked in 1982 for ‘alleged homosexual activity’

 ‘Liam’ kept his Garda notebooks from the 1980s. Photograph: Alan Betson

‘Liam’ kept his Garda notebooks from the 1980s. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The Government should apologise to a former Garda member who was dismissed from the force because of suspected “homosexual activity”, Fianna Fáil has said. Last night the former garda welcomed the comments by Fianna Fáil, adding that he was seeking an apology.

The Irish Times on Thursday revealed the man, using the pseudonym ‘Liam’, has now received an acknowledgment from Garda Commissioner Drew Harris that his services were dispensed of in 1982 due to his “alleged homosexual activity”.

Fianna Fáil has compared the case to that of Majella Moynihan, the former garda forced from her job and disciplined for giving birth out of wedlock in 1984. She received face-to-face apologies from Mr Harris and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan earlier this year.

Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan TD said, like the Moynihan case, the “deeply disturbing” dismissal of the former garda because of his sexuality was a reminder what a “cold” place Ireland was in the 1980s.

“Garda Commissioner Drew Harris deserves to be commended for taking the lead in seeking to acknowledge the wrongdoing of An Garda Síochána in this act,” said Mr O’Callaghan.

“The Government should now acknowledge the State’s wrongdoing and apologise to the [former] garda on behalf of the State for what was, on any analysis, an unfair and shameful dismissal.”

Liam was dismissed in his early 20s just two days before his two-year probation period was due to expire. His staff appraisals in 1980 and 1981 were all positive and recommended his retention as an “excellent garda”.

However, when RTÉ set designer Charles Self was murdered in a house in Monkstown, Co Dublin in January 1982, gardaí focussed on the gay community. Liam was spotted by the investigating officers as he moved around in Dublin’s gay circles.

Tonie Walsh, gay rights campaigner, said ‘Liam’ case was example of State’s ‘unfinished business’. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Tonie Walsh, gay rights campaigner, said ‘Liam’ case was example of State’s ‘unfinished business’. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Leave

Once it emerged he was gay he was interviewed twice about his sexuality and in mid-1982, two days before he was due to become a full-time garda, he was stripped of his uniform in his Garda station by senior officers who sought him out and ordered him to leave.

He has written to Garda Headquarters and the Department of Justice many times in recent years. However, the copy of his personnel file he was allowed access to was incomplete and contained no material related to his dismissal.

Last month The Irish Times reported extensively on his case and now Mr Harris has provided Liam with documents about his dismissal, pledged to search for more and to contact Liam again when that search is complete.

Liam said while he felt vindicated by the commissioner’s confirmation that his sexuality was the reason he was dismissed, he wanted a meeting with Mr Harris and an apology.

Tonie Walsh, a campaigner for gays rights for decades and curator of the Irish Queer Archives, welcomed the case being highlighted and said it was an example of the “unfinished business” Ireland had with how gay people were treated in the past.

Mr Walsh added while it was “dangerous” for one generation to assume responsibility for the wrongs committed by previous generations, Ireland needed to acknowledge the legacy of the hurt that had been caused to gay people.He said cases like of those of Liam’s remained very difficult to highlight because the men involved are unwilling to speak out.