Women in the Gardaí

Phyllis Nolan

Interviewed on 11th October 2021

INTERNATIONAL POLICE ASSOCIATION

 

Phyllis Nolan, a native of Carlow, joined An Garda Síochána in 1961. She became the first female to be promoted to the rank of Superintendent on 22nd February 1989, thirty years after the first appointment of women to the Gardaí. In this recording, undertaken by Rita Delaney, Phyllis discusses her work with the International Police Association (IPA). The IPA is a friendship organisation for members of the police force, with over 372,000 members around the world. For more visit HERE 

RITA DELANEY: I’m now going to move on and ask Phyllis about something that is synonymous with her and was a huge part and still is a huge part of her life, and that is the IPA . So when did you start getting involved in the IPA, Phyllis?

PHYLIS NOLAN: Well, in my very young days the IPA was dormant in Ireland. Ireland had been a member from the early days, 1955, there was very few countries involved in it, and then it was dormant for many years. Both Morris Short and Michael Ringrose, in two different parts of Ireland, were working tirelessly to try and re establish it. So they called a meeting in the Garda Club. Mr. Garvey would always facilitate every activity that people wanted to pursue and we got a room. Called a meeting. John Hickson became the president, Morris Short the treasurer, Michael Ringrose the editor, and there was a few other people as well. Catherine Barry, she was a young Ban Garda in Store Street with me and she became the secretary general, Lord rest her. And I became involved at that time and within a year I was co opted onto the national executive as their social secretary, and so my life in IPA began. We had a group from Northern Ireland to visit us and we went to visit them. So we saw the benefit of having interaction, and of course that was all part of the original idea of Arthur Troop, that IPA would support members in their endeavours and you’d have a greater opportunity to look at policing in another country or to have assistance from somebody because you could ring them up, you knew them, that kind of thing, and that’s how it was. And I continued like that. And then we set up what we call the “travel bureau”. Three of us were members of that, Bill Murphy, Michael Ringrose and myself, and we organised a trip to America in 1971, when very few people except the supporting bodies were able to take a flight to America. They’d charter a flight and then go to America, and that’s how it was. And then it was deemed that there should be a travel secretary and I was appointed the travel secretary.

MS. DELANEY: And for that trip did you just say you chartered a flight? And everybody went, the whole group?

MS. NOLAN: We chartered an aircraft from Aer Lingus.

MS. DELANEY: Now, that was pretty ground breaking.

MS. NOLAN: And it was really courageous I suppose. And this was in 1970, because the flight took off in May ’71. The cost of the aircraft was in excess of £9,000 … So we sold the seats, we got members to come and our friends and we sold seats, individual seats. And then we planned, in conjunction with the IPA in America we planned a tour. And we were hosted in homes.

MS. DELANEY: Well, you see, that was the huge big thing of the IPA, you were hosted in countries.

MS. NOLAN: Yes, because members in Ireland could not possibly go to America and check into a hotel. In one or two places we were in travel lodges and such places as we travelled around. So three weeks in America and some of the people that went there would be your friends, your aunts, your uncles or whatever, people that bought a seat on the plane, but that made it viable.

MS. DELANEY: At the time where were you working from? Had you bought the premises in Glasnevin?

MS. NOLAN: No, no, not at all, we had no premises.

MS. DELANEY: That was a huge achievement.

MS. NOLAN: I was living in a flat in Cabra Park, he was married living in Crumlin and Michael Ringrose was in Naas and, as you said, you used to sit at the bottom of the stairs. You know, there was no mobile phones. There was a telephone, a pay phone in the house that I was living in and that’s how we operated it.

MS. DELANEY: That’s extraordinary nowadays to see what you did. No mobile phones, no computers, no anything … Now, of course you were President of the IPA and you were President of the international IPA, isn’t that correct?

MS. NOLAN: The international have an annual meeting and they had it here in 1980, and then in ’81 I gave a presentation in Washington and I became, I was elected international Vice President, third Vice President. Then I became second and then I became first. I ran for president; I was not elected. As somebody said, Phyllis, they are not ready for a woman but you’re a good worker. So I did another term as Vice President. I’m the only person, and the organisation is over 70 years, 70 years in existence, that did four terms as a Vice President.

MS. NOLAN: I didn’t make president but that doesn’t matter, that’s not an issue.

MS. DELANEY: Okay, but one huge achievement you were involved with and are still involved with is the premise in Glasnevin. You were involved in buying that premises, yes? Do you want to tell us a little bit about that. Where did the idea come from? Who had the foresight and the vision to do that with you?

MS. NOLAN: The first house that was purchased, no, that was acquired by IPA internationally was a small house, the Yoohoo house in Gimborn in Germany just near the college, the IPA educational centre. That was Germans and the man who became secretary general, Theo Leenders from the Netherlands. And it was possible to go, they developed a number of them and it was possible to go and stay in these houses. But they were not always owned, they were not owned by the organisation, they were leased. However, we then got the idea that we would acquire a house and we bought one down in Kildare. But Kildare was too close to Dublin for Dublin people to go out to the country on holidays and people coming from the country wouldn’t stay in Kildare if they wanted to come to Dublin, so it was only suitable for foreign, for foreign IPA members coming in. It was decided one should be bought in Dublin and there was a committee set up to deal with that. I was not part of that committee; however I did see this house in Glasnevin and I made contact with the committee and the rest is history as they say.