Historical Experience

Conor Brady

Interviewed 22 September 2021

GUARDIANS OF THE PEACE

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 speaks about writing his first book on the organisation – Guardians of the Peace.

MICHAEL DALTON: Then came Guardians of the Peace. How long did that take you to get through? That is a big volume and a lot of research.

CONOR BRADY: That was actually connected with my going to the Garda review. I actually wanted to do a Masters in UCD on the law enforcement policy in the Free State 22 to 32 and I didn’t have the time to do it really when I was working in The Irish Times, I was working a lot in Belfast, the Troubles had just started. Going to the Garda Review gave me more control over my time and allowed me to finish Guardians of the Peace. It was a labour of love. It was the first history of the Guards that had been done. I was fortunate in two things in that a lot of the founder members were still alive so I was able to get first-hand accounts of some of the really significant things that happened. I was also fortunate if I can put it this way, in that most of the documentary sources were not available to me. Whereas in later years a researcher might have got bogged down for months and years going through the files they simply weren’t available, they weren’t open to me. I relied very largely on oral evidence, interviews, I did about 100 interviews, almost every one of the people I interviewed now, with one or two exceptions, they are all gone to their reward, so I think it was particularly valuable to actually get their testimony and put it between hard covers. Interestingly enough next year, 22 being the centenary, Guardians of the Peace is being republished with an introduction from Drew Harris, the new Commissioner, and an epilogue bringing developments forward a bit. That will be my way, hopefully, of making my contribution to the centenary.