‘I HADN’T TOLD ANYBODY THAT I WAS AFTER APPLYING FOR THE GUARDS’
Interviewed on 1 October 2021
Garda Catherine Bartley joined An Garda Síochána in 1987 and retired in 2019, having worked in various sections of the force, latterly the Dog Unit, where she spent many years and became well known for her work with Garda dogs. Catherine was interviewed for the project on 1st October 2021. In this piece of audio, she speaks about her decision to join An Garda Siochána and how her family found out when the police arrived at their door.
MS. BARTLEY: I didn’t really think about the Guards because any time the only time we really saw the Guards in the area, in the ’80s in particular, was the start of the heroin epidemic in that area. That’s where it started. And, ehm, there was the Guards were obviously coming and raiding places and stuff like that. So, there wasn’t any real connection with the Guards, and you saw them as people that, ehm well, coming into people’s houses. We weren’t we didn’t have much contact with them. There was no compo or anything like that. And, ehm, so the Guards weren’t really on me mind. Ehm, I was working in an office. I was very good at organising things, and I started off as a junior in the office and I ended up as a PA to the senior partner. So, ehm, I left there actually to go into the Guards, and I just realised then that office work was not really for me. (Laughs). I wanted to be out, out and about and meeting people, and just generally I like chatting to everybody and…
MR. O’BRIEN: Yeah. Outgoing. And tell me a little bit, if you do remember, about, you know, when you walked into the Garda Station to apply, or did you apply in a different way? Just give me some sense of what that was like? Because I remember what it was like for me. What was it like for you when you went to the station? Was it Kevin Street you went to?
MS. BARTLEY: I went to Kevin Street and I was met at the desk by a Sergeant and I said, ehm, “I’d like to get a form to join the Guards”, and you see I only had my Inter Cert done. So I had to sit an exam to actually… To an interview stage, yeah. But I had to so I went down in anyway. I told nobody. Because I knew that it wouldn’t be looked on very favourably in the area. And, ehm, I went down and got the form, filled in the form, and I said “I’ll drop it in to him”. He said “drop it in the next day.” So I was on my way to meet my mother in town. We always called O’Connell Street town. Because we didn’t think we lived in town. So, ehm, I was on my way to meet my mother. I dropped in the form and he says to me “the Super wants to see you.” Now, I can still tell you what I was wearing. I was wearing blue stripy trousers, little red pixie boots, and a T shirt and a little, ehm, a blue jacket. And I have to say, I was shaking. And he brought me up, and I think his name was McSweeney. And we started talking and, ehm, we spent most of the interview talking about Gaelic football, because I was playing Gaelic football, his sons played Gaelic football, minor, for Dublin, and, ehm, yeah, I came away thinking “that went well”.
MR. O’BRIEN: This could work? And you did the, you did the exam. So on a particular time how long after that was it before you actually physically joined?
MS. BARTLEY: I was, I was in Cyprus in my aunt had died, that I was living with, and I was in Cyprus with the football team in September ’86, and I came back after two weeks and my Mam, who lived in Kilmainham, and still lives there, ehm, said to me “the police are after being up there.” Now, I hadn’t told anybody that I was after applying for the Guards. So, she met me at the door as I walked in, and she was in a panic that they’re looking for me. So, ehm, I had to contact the Sergeant I can’t remember his name and, ehm, I ended up I should have gone down in December ’86. But, ehm, it was put back, and we were the last of the old training. So, I went down in May ’87.