*Check against delivery*

Minister of Justice, Helen McEntee T.D.

Garda Síochána Retired Members Association - Annual Delegate Meeting speech

 

 

President,

Delegates,

Thank you for your invitation to attend your Annual Delegate Meeting.

 

I am delighted to be here and to be able to speak to you all in person.

 

I know that you have not been able to hold your annual meeting since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic so I am particularly pleased to meet with you all today.

 

I want to start by saying that, as Minister for Justice, I take great pride in the vital work that Garda members are engaged in throughout this country.

 

It is the women and men of An Garda Síochána who work to keep us safe from harm, and I want to thank all of you for your service and for maintaining and developing a police service that the citizens of Ireland can trust and rely on throughout your careers.

 

2022 is of course a landmark year, as we mark the centenary of An Garda Síochána.

 

I want to congratulate and thank all of those who have been involved in this year of special events and publications to recognise the Garda centenary. I know a lot of hard work has gone into the programme and I look forward to attending as many of the planned events as I can.

 

I particularly look forward to the completion of the Oral History Project, which no doubt will serve as an invaluable legacy learning tool far into the future, and I want to thank all those of you here today who may be contributing to that project for the vital record which you are creating of your work.

 

The establishment of a new police service by the Provisional Government in 1922 was one of the key foundation stones of the Irish Free State, and An Garda Síochána remains to this day one of the great successes of this country. Initiatives like the Oral History Project will ensure that the rich history of our police service is continually passed down through the generations.

 

I am also pleased that, as a small token of appreciation of outstanding public service and to mark the centenary year, every serving and retired member of An Garda Síochána will be issued with a special commemorative medal and certificate from the Garda Commissioner and I.

 

It’s important that we all recognise that the foundation of An Garda Síochána marked the start of a very special relationship between the Irish people and the police service of the new State.

 

‘The Civic Guard’, as it was initially known, was conceived at a meeting convened by Michael Collins and held in the Gresham Hotel in February 1922 and I was very pleased to be able to join with the Commissioner as well as Garda members past and present at a special event in that hotel to mark the centenary just a few weeks ago.

 

As I said on that occasion, throughout the past century, the organisation has stayed true to its founding principles, with its defining characteristic being its unique connection to our communities. A relationship which is the envy of many police services across the world, rooted in and serving our communities, keeping people safe.

 

Our local Gardaí are the people who we turn to in our most difficult moments and, often, they are the ones to break difficult news and support us in our most intense moments of grief.

 

We could probably fill Croke Park 100 times over with the number of people who have been helped in some way by the people in this room alone.

 

Over its first one hundred years, An Garda Síochána has faced a succession of challenges, from establishing the trust of the people following years of unrest and war, to the Second World War, the Troubles, the growth of organised crime, COVID-19 and a range of other obstacles in between. On each occasion, individual Gardaí have risen to the challenge and kept us safe.

 

It is testament to the work of all of you here today over the decades in which you served that more than 11,000 people responded to the recruitment campaign earlier this year. It is the legacy left by members like you that makes being a Garda a proud profession that young men and women apply to join. 

 

Policing during any time in history is hugely challenging and I am always impressed when I see new recruits passing out in Templemore, because I know that the decision to commit so wholeheartedly to public service in the way that Gardaí do is not a decision that is taken lightly.

 

The hard work carried out by individual Gardaí and management in building and sustaining community relationships over the decades has ensured that serving members can enjoy the high level of respect from the public that is both deserved and necessary to do their jobs.

 

While the types of crime have changed over the years, with many existing now that could not have been dreamed of 100 years ago, that relationship remains as strong as ever.

 

I believe the strength of this connection, of the local Garda within our communities, is why all of us have felt such deep collective hurt on each occasion when a member has made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives.

 

I know that this service does not come without risk, and Gardaí personally put their lives in danger on a daily basis in order to keep the rest of us safe.

 

I want to take this opportunity, as we did at the annual Garda Memorial Day last month, to remember and recognise in particular the sacrifices made by the 89 Garda members who have lost their lives in the line of duty over the last century.

 

The death of each and every Garda member has been a huge loss both to their family and friends, but also to the wider communities in which they lived and worked, and whom they protected with such dedication.

 

Each of the 89 men on the Garda Roll of Honour died in the service of the State and for the people of Ireland. We remember each them and the dedication which all Gardaí have shown in preserving law, order and the security of our country over the past century.

 

An effective policing service is of course one that reflects the society in which it operates and, while always serving our people, it has been vital that An Garda Síochána has developed since that first group of all-male Civic Guards passed out one hundred years ago.

 

I want to note in particular the contribution which has been made by the women of An Garda Síochána since the first twelve female recruits joined in 1959.

 

Over the past 63 years, increasing numbers of women have chosen to join An Garda Síochána – both as sworn members and as civilian staff – and are now represented across the organisation including, increasingly, within the highest ranks.

 

The organisation is currently of course in a period of renewal as we together implement the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. The changing landscapes of technology and crime also necessitate changes in our policing service.

 

However, I want to acknowledge that without the robust foundation that you have all built during your years of service with An Garda Síochána, and without the work you put in to developing the service throughout the decades, we would not have the strong platform upon which we are building the latest advances.

 

So many individual Garda members have provided an immense and valuable frontline service throughout the most challenging years in the history of the State. Their dedication and loyalty has never faltered.

           

My hope for this centenary year is that we can reinforce the pride and respect that we all feel for our local Gardaí, and that people of all ages and backgrounds – perhaps even serving Garda members – might learn something new about the remarkable history of An Garda Síochána.

 

May I thank you once again for the invitation to join with you tonight. And more importantly, once again thank you for dedicating your lives to keeping us safe. I hope you enjoy your evening.

 

ENDS