Garda Work

Conor Brady

Interviewed 22 September 2021

REFLECTING ON THE FUTURE OF AN GARDA SÍOCHÁNA

        Image Courtesy of The Irish Times

Conor Brady is an Irish journalist, novelist and academic,  a former Editor of The Irish Times, an Editor of the Garda Review, a contributor on RTÉ and a former Commissioner of the Garda Ombudsman. He is also the son of Cornelius Brady, or Con Brady, who joined An Garda Síochána in 1923 and died in service in 1962. Superintendent Con Brady was one of the Garda Superintendents who shouldered the coffin of Kevin O’Higgins, the assassinated Minister for Justice in 1927. Conor wrote both Guardians of the Peace: The Irish Police (2000), as well as The Guarding of Ireland: The Garda Siochana & the Irish State 1960–2014 (2014). Here, Conor considers the future of AGS.

MICHAEL DALTON: Last question, do you see particular challenges in the future for the Guards?

CONOR BRADY: Yes. I look at the things that they are doing well. On the security front, there is no doubt they are well on top of State security. They are well on top of organised crime. Now there will always be a lag between what the criminals are at and what the Guards can do and as soon as the Guards put one crowd out of business there is another crowd will come along, so that is always going to be a game of catch up. I think the Guards are doing quite well on that and if you look at the success rate in terms of dealing with organised crime they are doing quite well on traffic. The successes there are clear in the reduced numbers of road deaths, okay they are back up a bit now from the pandemic but they are way down on what they were a few years back.

Where they are not doing so well probably is in relation to, I suppose, what you would call anti-social behaviour, social disorder, and again that isn’t their fault a lot of the time, the powers that are available to them and the operation of the courts make it very, very difficult. I mean you see situations where drugs are being dealt openly, there is violence on the streets, Guards go in, they make their arrest, the perpetrators are taken to the station, they are out on bail two hours later and they are at the same thing again the following night. That wouldn’t happen if they were doing those kinds of things, for example, in France or Spain, you are taken to the station, you are put in a cell and you will see a magistrate in a month. I don’t think the guards are to blame for that but I think there is a situation there that if they lose control of the streets if they lose control of the business centre, the business district in the cities if they lose control of the housing estates then that is going to work back on them in terms of their relations with the population.

The other thing that they do need to do certainly is there has to be a much more proactive campaign to draw in the new Irish, the new racial minorities into the force, the Poles, the Chinese, the Eastern Europeans, the Africans, the Caribbeans, there is a few of them in there but very, very few. Certainly, there are potentially real problems, certainly in Dublin that I would be aware of, between some of those minority groups and the Guards. Again I think the authorities are aware of it but I am not sure that they are being properly resourced to bridge the gap between the force and some of those minority groups.

Those are the problems that I would see for the future but you know is the glass half full or is it half empty? I would say that it is more than half full. It is never quite full, it never will be quite full for any organisation that is involved in managing social behaviour but I think things are pretty good and pretty positive.