Local families brave rain to spend day with Blanchardstown gardaí

Annual open day: ‘People may have a poor perception of the police and don’t trust us’

Blanchardstown Garda station open day: “The atmosphere around policing is often negative but the kids here today get a wonderful view of the work we do.” Photograph: Sorcha Pollak/The Irish Times

Blanchardstown Garda station open day: “The atmosphere around policing is often negative but the kids here today get a wonderful view of the work we do.” Photograph: Sorcha Pollak/The Irish Times

 

Lashing rain and chilly autumnal temperatures failed to deter the hundreds of people who showed up at Blanchardstown Garda station on Saturday to take part in the station’s annual open day.

Toddlers kitted out in wellies and rain-jackets jumped gleefully through puddles in the station yard while their older siblings relished the opportunity to ring the Garda siren, sit on a Garda motorbike and climb aboard the Garda Sub-Aqua inflatable raft.

A somewhat damp but determined group of musicians from the Garda Band provided entertainment for the dozens of families from the community who had come to spend a day with the local gardaí.

Aims at closer ties

The event, which has taken place at the Blanchardstown station for seven years, not only offers people a chance to meet their local guards but also aims to build closer ties between gardaí and families who have moved to Ireland in recent years.

“There is sometimes a barrier with those communities, and some think guards are only people you go to when you’re in trouble,” says Insp Tony Twomey. “We’re anxious to open up the station and let people see what we do.”

Insp Twomey says its important that people who have moved to Ireland feel comfortable reporting crimes to the authorities.

“A proportion of the ethnic minorities that we have here have come from countries where they were oppressed. Their interactions before with law enforcement agencies might have been completely different. In terms of family disputes and domestic violence, people may come from cultures where you wouldn’t necessarily report these crimes.”

Sgt Dave McInerney of the Garda Racial, Intercultural and Diversity Office agrees that it is “vitally important” that people have the courage to approach the police with their problems. “People may have a poor perception of the police and don’t trust us. They may feel we’re solely here to take their human rights. Our job is to ensure these people have the confidence to come to us.”

With the high level of negative press around An Garda Síochána recently, open days also give gardaí on the ground the chance to showcase the work they carry out locally, Sgt McInerney adds.

“It’s a two-way exchange and educates the police about the community as well. The atmosphere around policing is often negative, but the kids here today get a wonderful view of the work we do.”

Says Insp Twomey: “Today is about the work we do every day, it’s the bread-and-butter stuff. An Garda Síochána cannot function without the support of the community. For once, people can come here and enjoy their interactions with the guards. It creates confidence for everybody.”

Guided tour

Kevin and Kemraj O’Doyle are standing outside the station with their nephew, queuing up for a guided tour of the building. The two men, who are originally from Mauritius but have lived in Ireland for a decade, say the event helps to humanise the police force. “It makes people feel safer on the streets and have confidence in the Garda forces and what they do instead of people thinking they just walk around the streets,” says Kevin.

Seun Odusole, a 14-year-old third year student from Corduff, says he wandered in from the street because he was interested to see how the Garda force works. “I’d say they’re generally good for the people, they’re alright,” says the local teen. “I suppose they’re doing this to show that we can depend on them and show what unity means.”

Silvia Herranz, who is originally from Madrid but has lived in Ireland for 20 years, says she admires gardaí and the work they do. “They’re here to protect you, even if there is corruption, they’re here to help you. I admire them very much.”