Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, with Chief Superintendent John Dollard.Photos: Seamus Farrelly

'Thank you for keeping us safe' - Tribute to past and present members of An Garda Siochána

The contribution of the members of An Garda Siochana in Meath and their families to keeping the people of Meath safe over the past century was celebrated and acknowledged at an event in Navan on Friday last.

Up to 400 present and former members and families of deceased members gathered at the Ardboyne Hotel where they were joined by the Minister for Justice, Meath East TD, Helen McEntee, as well as the Chief Superintendent for Meath, John Dollard, local superintendents, and civilian staff, including Yvonne Cooke, recently appointed head of the Garda Civilian HR Directorate, which is based at Athlumney House, Navan.

Specially commissioned medals and coins presented were not just to mark the Garda centenary, but were much more than that, said Inspector Mick O'Keeffe of Navan Garda Station in his introductory remarks.

“They are a symbol of the dedication, hard work and sacrifice of you and your loved ones to serving the people of Meath over the last 100 years.”

Chief Superintendent Dollard, who was recently appointed to Meath, acknowledged the enormous contribution made by the members and staff in Meath over that 100 years, and highlighted the broad support that the Garda force enjoyed amongst the public as singularly unique in international policing.

”This is because the Garda has always been people-focused, dealing with compassion and understanding, with values like honesty and respect always central to our community involvement.”

He acknowledged that being a Garda was not now or has ever been an easy job, with members working long and unsocial hours, exposed at times to violence, abuse, and dangerous situations. He said he was glad that the impact of trauma on mental health was being recognised, and to those who have been injured on duty, he thanked them for their commitment and selfnessless.

“While we see the very worst of behaviour in people sometimes, we also see the very best in humankind,” he said. “Critically, we make a difference, help people, protect the vulnerable, keep them safe, and look for justice for those who are victims of crime.”

Garda Dollard remembered and saluted those who had passed away, and those associated with Meath who died in the line of duty – Hugh Ward, Patrick McLoughlin, Frank Hand, Patrick Morrissey and Sean Eiffe.

He looked forward to exciting times for the Garda Siochana, with a new operating model looking at the need for greater specialisiation to reflect changes in crime and society.

“This will see new community engagement areas with more gardai out on patrol and working in the community,” he stated, adding that the introduction of new uniforms showed that on a practical level, members were being listened to.

Minister McEntee said that over the past couple of years as we marked and celebrated milestones around the establishment of the State, it was obvious that one of the most successful and most important things to come out of that period was An Garda Siochána. “Setting up an unarmed police force at a time of Civil War was not an easy task, but is proven today, and rooted in that deep connection the Garda Siochana has with the people and the community,” she said, adding that that connection remains at the very core of the work that each and every member does today.

“It is 100 years that has seen the recent Covid pandemic, but also a World War, troubles in the North, the emergence of organised crime, and now, online crime,” she said, adding that as crime has changed, the Garda has always come together collectively to protect and keep our people safe.

“And I would say that in individual moments, it is the individual members that have helped each and every one of us, personally, and our families in very difficult and challenging times. So whether it is the larger events of the individual moments, members cannot be thanked enough for that.”

Ms McEntee reflected that when any of us goes out the door in the mornings, we don't know what the day will bring, but when a Garda leaves their house and family to go to work, they do not know what dangers they are going to face, and that it is important that support is there for them.

She had a different insight into the force in her two years as minister, and with the restructuring taking place, has every confidence that with the present members and new recruits, we are in 'safe hands'.

Ms McEntee presented some 48 centenary medals the families of deceased members, while the chief superintendent and his superintendent colleagues presented some 340 medals and coins to district members. Historian Liam McNiffe delivered a talk on the history of the force over the past 100 years, with a special emphasis on Meath.