Sir, - To study Garda history, keeping faith with the past, is the best tribute we can pay to the founder members of the force in the 75th anniversary year. To coin a phrase, we ignore history at our peril, a lesson I learned during my time as curator of the Garda Museum - if Sergeant George Maybury of AGSI (Irish Times, January 22nd) will bear with me.

In an earlier role as pioneering general secretary of the Representative Body for Inspectors and Sergeants in the 1960s, I studied in depth the philosophy and practical problems in an organisation that seemed even then, 30 years ago, to have lost its way. Of course, we are living in a different age, but new challenges should not result in dilution of principle, as Sergeant Maybury seems to imply in his amusement at my "quaint" historical analogy.

If crime prevention, despite all present difficulties, is not given the highest priority, the Garda Siochana runs the risk of becoming mere thief-takers, like the Bow Street Runners. Its a signal of the times that 18th-century errors are being repeated in the growth of the security industry, with an ever-increasing employment of untrained watchmen.

During my time as general secretary, the Representative Body identified as a primary duty the motivation of sergeants as middle-rank managers in the scheme of crime prevention. The collective mind of the Garda organisation had to be re-educated out of its preoccupation with crime detection and the trap of response time measurement as the yardstick of efficiency.

As long as we were failing in our preventive function, crime would continue to increase, and again and again the old cry would go up for greater and still greater numbers in the ranks. When you are talking about undermanning, where is the line to be drawn? - Yours, etc.,

Upper Kilmacud Road, Blackrock, Co Dublin.