Majella Moynihan: I attempted suicide five times over treatment by Garda
Commissioner Drew Harris will give a ‘personal apology’ to former garda
Majella Moynihan says she felt ‘overwhelmed’ after documentary was broadcast. Photograph: supplied by RTE
Former garda Majella Moynihan has said she attempted suicide five times in the wake of her treatment by the force in the 1980s.
Ms Moynihan said she was hospitalised in St John of God’s following a threat of dismissal from the Garda for having a baby with a colleague while unmarried.
Ms Moynihan was 22 when she was charged under Garda Síochána regulations of having premarital sex with another garda and a second count of having given “birth to a child outside wedlock”.
Speaking on the Today with Sean O’Rourke show on Monday, she said: “they thought they could break me, but they didn’t. I’m a strong woman. I’ve worked so hard over the years. They no longer have a hold over me. Today I’m free.”
She said following her pregnancy and the adoption of her son, she was subject to sexual harassment.
During a lengthy interview, during which she broke down on several occasions, she said senior officers told her she was “finished” in the force even after the charges against her were dropped.
She said another senior colleague told her she would not have brought the force into disrepute if she had travelled to England for an abortion, rather than giving birth to her son. A year after the birth, she was told by a superior officer “if it ever happens again, you’re sacked”.
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan will meet Ms Moynihan this week, who will also receive a “personal apology” from the Garda Commissioner regarding her treatment in the 1980s.
In a statement to The Irish Times, a spokesman for An Garda Síochána said arrangements will be made on Monday “to provide Ms Moynihan with a personal apology from the Commissioner”.
A spokesman for Mr Flanagan said he was happy to meet Ms Moynihan and said arrangements were underway to facilitate a meeting. A source said the Minister and the Commissioner may meet Ms Moynihan together.
Earlier on Monday, Ms Moynihan said it was of “vital importance” that Garda Commissioner Drew Harris meets her and apologises in person.
While Ms Moynihan said she is happy with the apologies she had received from Mr Harris and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, she would have preferred if they had contacted her directly, she said.
Ms Moynihan’s treatment by An Garda Siochana was revealed in a documentary broadcast on RTE radio at the weekend. It was also reported by The Irish Times in 1985, although Ms Moynihan was not named in the report.
Ms Moynihan was internally investigated for a breach of discipline and was later charged with two counts under the 1971 Garda Síochána Regulations.
Speaking on Monday Ms Moynihan said: ”I kept it secret for so many years because I had so much shame and now it’s no longer my story of shame, it’s their shame and I feel so vindicated.”
After the documentary was broadcast she felt “so overwhelmed” she told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
“The response has just been phenomenal for me, I knew it was a big story, but I didn’t think it would get the coverage that it has got. I’m just overjoyed.”
“I kept it secret for so many years because I had so much shame and now it is no longer my story of shame, it is their shame and I feel so vindicated.
“I’m so grateful to the people that heard me and believed my story.
“Back in 1984, when I was pregnant and the treatment that they inflicted on me, I knew it was wrong, and for many years I’ve done counselling, I’ve done a lot of work on myself and I always felt within me that I had to tell my story, not only for me but for other women.
“The treatment of me was horrific abuse and no woman should ever, ever have to go through it.”
“I’m so grateful that I had the courage and I just hope that it will empower other women that have been through similar situations to come forward and tell their story.”
Ms Moynihan said she was happy with the apology from the Commissioner “but I feel that the apology should have come to me first, a personal apology. I feel very hurt that Commissioner Harris still hasn’t contacted me and it’s been 24 hours”.
Asked if she’d like to meet Mr Harris in person, she said: “I think for healing for me and for my future and for what I have felt what the guards have done to me, where I feel yes, it’s of vital importance that I meet Commissioner Harris, that he meets me, and he apologises to me and he also gives me a written apology. Yes I would be happy. I would be content with that.”
Ms Moynihan said she had not heard directly from the Minister for Justice either. “I haven’t heard from anybody and I strongly believe and I strongly feel that both of those people should have come to me first.”
The day she entered Templemore (the Garda training college) was the happiest day of her life, she said. “Walking in the gates of Templemore, I wanted to go in and change the injustices of things that were going on in our country and the way people were being treated.
“I believed, as the person I was at that stage, that I could have done that and I still believe that I could have done that, if I hadn’t been treated so badly by the Garda.
“The one thing that I believed so strongly from them was that I discredited the force, that was to me the most horrific thing that they could tell a 21-year-old because I didn’t discredit the force, but I believed I did. They had that strong power over me.”
Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan said on Monday the Government should immediately grant Ms Moynihan a full pension backdated to when she left the force in 1998.
The details of what happened to the former garda when she became pregnant ‘out of wedlock’ was “a harrowing story” he told RTÉ radio’s New at One.
Her name would now be added to the infamous list of women who had been badly treated in Ireland, he said. “The State has a responsibility and liability to her.”