Joining The Force

John O’Brien

Interviewed 2020

TRAINING DAYS IN TEMPLEMORE

 

John O’Brien from Ballinhassig in Cork joined the Gardaí in 1968. On retiring almost 40 years later in 2006, he had reached the rank of Detective Chief Superintendent. He had also been Head of the National Office for Interpol and Europol. This recording was originally broadcast by John Greene on C103 as part of the radio series, Where the Road Takes Me and was since donated to the RGSMA Archive. Here, John recalls his memories of training to be a Garda, at Templemore Training College.

 

MR. GREENE: And what was your training like in Templemore then? Much different, I would imagine, than a young recruit heading there today. A sound knowledge of the law, arms training, and I suppose emphasis as well very much on so physical training.

MR. O’BRIEN: Yes, but like you’ll remember when you were kind of 21, is what I was, you’re strong. It is like training a hurling team or a football team so the physical activity was actually terrific. I hadn’t been in the FCA, and many of my colleagues had, so they had the rudimentaries of marching and drill, and drill was a significant part of the programme. It was a mixture. You’d probably say in old-fashioned terms that it was stress training, in other words you were put to the pin of your collar, but having said that, there was a great camaraderie between the different class members because for the first time I was meeting guys from all over the country, and it was all guys, there was no women in our class, so it was an all-male environment in that regard. So there was a great buzz. Interesting thing, shows you the changing times. We were there permanently, we didn’t get home at the weekends. It wasn’t like it is now. We were marched to mass on Sunday in Templemore to meet the Canon, who was quite a character, at the end of a long avenue in Templemore, with the Devil’s Bit looking down on top of us. One particular Sergeant used to march us to mass, and I liked this guy, and I’ll tell you why, he marched us down, but he didn’t agree with this, so he would march us down, he would wait outside until the Canon had given us our usual Sunday lambasting inside, the dangers to our souls, and then he would march us back. But he was making his own statement that he did not agree with that regime. I liked him a lot and I think I inherited a bit of that streak in me right through my career in the Guards.

MR. GREENE: Your first posting was to Santry Station in Dublin. I know in the Army that you can suggest where you’d like to go, but the eventual destination is down to your superior officers. Was Santry in your psyche at all at that stage?

MR. O’BRIEN: Santry was, and Dublin was, because I felt there was a fair degree of certainty, of where you were going. If you didn’t kind of opt for Dublin, you could pick any point of the compass, and sometimes B Branch, which was our personnel section, took a kind of a perverse delight sending you to Donegal if you were from Cork and…

MR. GREENE: (Laughs).

MR. O’BRIEN: And Donegal back down to Cork. So there was a little bit of that horror of horrors, I could have ended up in Kerry! Now, I’m joking. Because most Cork Guards at that stage went to Kerry, and most Kerry Guards went to Cork.