Emotive speech by Commissioner Drew Harris at National Garda Centenary celebrations

by Rose Barrett
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100 years of garda celebrations

Saturday last saw Garda Commissioner Drew Harris address the attendance at the National Garda Centenary Event in Dublin Castle.

Commissioner Drew (below) spoke of the privilege he felt to speak at “this symbolic place to mark a very special occasion… where gardaí succeed not by force of arms or numbers, but on our moral authority as servants of the people.”

He continued: “It was here in August 1922 that our first Garda Commissioner, Michael Staines, led relatively new members of An Garda Síochána through the Palace Street gates of Dublin Castle – the then centre of British rule.

“It was then too that Dublin Castle, which had long served as a base for policing in Ireland, was formally handed over.”

However, Staines did not have things easy and in May 1922, 1,000 gardaí revolted against his leadership – it was Michael Collins who suppressed the rebellious new protectors of law and order before Staines could properly assume his role.

Commissioner Drew acknowledged there were times when gardaí “did not meet our own high standards or the standards expected of us– when we could have and should have done better for the Irish people.

“We must ensure these mistakes are not repeated… and we must learn the lessons of the past. We are striving to be even more open and transparent. “

However, there is no doubting the contribution and importance of the role of gardaí  in upholding law and order, but also becoming key figures within communities, urban and rural.

Today, there are over 14,000 highly trained gardaí and over 3,000 garda staff – “all working to uphold the ideals of those who founded us 100 years ago.”

Dublin Castle remains a hub of garda activity to this day, with several units still operating from there.

“It is also the place of our Garda Museum and our very special Memorial Garden. In the century since that pivotal moment in history, tens of thousands of people have come to dedicate their working lives as Gardaí to protect the safety of the communities we proudly serve.

“These ideals are best reflected in our development of community-based policing in Ireland. Policing in partnership with people and communities.

“Working together in unison to enhance our ability to keep citizens safe based on our strong tradition of policing by consent. The result is a highly trusted police service that is world renowned for its close connection to communities.”

This, claimed Commissioner Drew, did not happen by accident or good fortune.

It was achieved by generations of gardaí adhering to the ethos outlined by Commissioner Staines 100 years ago.

First Garda Commissioner Michael Staines leading his staff into Dublin Castle (Photo Garda Press Office)

Staines had always maintained that An Garda Síochána would succeed “not by force of arms or numbers, but on our moral authority as servants of the people.”

“And in response to the changing needs of the people we serve, our organisation has been undergoing a process of change,” said Commissioner Drew.

“We are now a large, ever-expanding organisation working across divisions and dedicated units in areas of local, national and international priority. We are a broad network of local and national units, and specialist and support services that are dedicated to preventing and detecting crime.

“We are continuing to put in place major ICT infrastructure suitable for the modern day policing. We are undertaking the largest reshaping of An Garda Síochána in its 100 years under the Garda Operating Model to provide more localised services.”

Just two weeks ago, a new, more practical operational uniform was introduced.

“Many of us here will remember there was a time, when our democracy was under direct threat and An Garda Síochána was at the forefront of protecting our democracy.

“This threat has not fully dissipated and, of course, there are also now further threats to State security from outside this island. By its nature, this aspect of our work often cannot be discussed in detail or in public at all.

“Over the last 100 years, there have been incidents of crime that have shocked and dismayed us all. Lives taken through criminality and others left altered forever.

“Yet time and time again, Gardaí have been trusted and relied upon to step in and go the extra mile to help and protect others. To be constantly aware of those who may be vulnerable in our society, and do all we can to guarantee the protection of the human rights of every individual we interact with.”

Commissioner Drew stated the force must ensure that the organisation is reflective of the diverse society it serves so proudly and that it must face the challenges ahead, and must develop in parallel with a rising population, and broaden its responsibilities to encompass issues as they impact locally, nationally and internationally.

“This will continue as the nature of criminality continues to evolve. It is essential that we are in position to meet these challenges and threats,” he said.

“As we gather here today on such a special and important occasion, I want to pay tribute to our colleagues – gardaí, garda staff and garda reserves – to those who came before us, established our service, and committed themselves to serving communities over the course of the past 100 years.

“To those who willingly dedicated their working lives to keep the public safe with dignity and honour… and especially we remember those who have passed on, in particular our 89 colleagues who were killed in the course of their duty and whose ultimate sacrifice remain with us always.”

“They are the epitome of An Garda Síochána… they make us extraordinarily proud of the privilege it is to wear this uniform and represent this great organisation. “

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