Women in the Gardaí

Retired Assistant Commissioner Catherine Clancy

Interviewed 25 October 2021



Catherine Clancy was the first woman to be appointed an assistant commissioner in An Garda Síochána on 10 September 2003. A native of Donegal, she joined AGS in 1975 and enjoyed steady promotion through the ranks. In 2008, she surprised many of her colleagues when she took early retirement.

For more about the experience of women in AGS, visit HERE
In this segment, Catherine speaks on her promotion to Superintendent and reflects on her late father’s ambitions for her career.


MR. FARRELLY: You were there for three years and of course that conversation you had with your father about wanting to be a Detective Sergeant and you’d be happy, obviously faded yet again because –

RETIRED ASST. COMM. CLANCY: Ah that kind of went by the wayside all right.

MR. FARRELLY: Yeah and back in 1996 you found yourself, by accident I suppose, being a Superintendent!

RETIRED ASST. COMM. CLANCY: There’s no accident when you go through the pain of an interview, I can tell you. Yeah, yeah again naturally enough I was going to take the opportunity when it was coming but you know, in a way just as an aside to all of that, there was always this little push from you know, Furzy [as heard] you know, go for it, go for it, why wouldn’t you go for it, you know. But yeah, went for it and yeah, it’s just, you know, I know I did a good interview but at the same time like it was just so great to get it. I wasn’t the first Superintendent by any manner of means. You know we had Phyllis, Phyllis was a Superintendent for a long time before that and Sarah, her name will come to me.

MR. FARRELLY: I can’t help you.


MR. FARRELLY: I know her, but I can’t give the

RETIRED ASST. COMM. CLANCY: Yes, yes, yes, yes. Anyway, they were the two Superintendents before that but it was still great, another feather in my cap really and I remember talking to the Commissioner after he had told me that I was on the list and asking him would he give me a parish of my own. I really wanted, you know, to have my own District and, you know, to learn my own way by doing that rather than I suppose I going into a department. So, again this was another really exciting time. He gave me Dungarvan, County Waterford.

MR. FARRELLY: That would have been interesting.

RETIRED ASST. COMM. CLANCY: Yeah and I had a wonder Chief there, Sean all the names are leaving me now.

MR. FARRELLY: Sean O’Halloran was it?

RETIRED ASST. COMM. CLANCY: Sean O’Halloran, thanks John. Yeah, Sean was the Chief in Waterford at the time and a most supportive man again. You know it was a big station party. There were five substations to it and it was, you know, it was just about just being there as a support to those who were on the ground and it was again another really exciting time in my life. I absolutely loved it. I loved being involved with, you know, the people of the town, the Lions Club, you know and it was just, it was another one of those, of those lovely placements that I got.

I was there for, I think it was three years or two years. No, in actual fact I was there up to 1997 and I was asked in 1997, there was an exchange programme, an academic exchange programme going on between ourselves and Penn State University at the time and I was asked if I would go to lecture in Penn State on the alternative criminal justice systems for a period of three months. I wasn’t the first to have done that, other people had done it before me. It had been going on for three or four years before I became involved. So I did that for three months and it was just again fantastic to be lecturing to these young people. They were doing, criminal justice was their stream but they were now learning about a different criminal justice system that existed with us and they just soaked up everything I was telling them and it was just so amazing to be in front of a class and to see them enjoy and absorb everything that I was telling them. Now, there was an exam at the end of it and all of that but it was extra points for them if they did it. So that was absolutely wonderful and again I met lovely people over there who looked after me so well.

So, I came back then to Community Relations and I was then, yes I was then posted in 1999 to Lucan Station. Lucan was the, sorry that was in 1997 to 1999 and Lucan was just a substation at the time. There was no Superintendent and the task I was given at that time was to convert Lucan in to a District Headquarters and all this, I suppose, the administration that went with a District Headquarters. So that was my big task there. Mick Carolan was the Chief Superintendent in Ronanstown and was in charge really. So Mick was a man who gave me a lot of support when I was doing that and then in I went again.

MR. FARRELLY: You did it again.


MR. FARRELLY: Your fathers words are always behind you, yeah.

RETIRED ASST. COMM. CLANCY: Well do you know something John, the amazing thing about going forward for the Chief Superintendent rank, I knew that this was going to be a first if it happened. I really didn’t expect that it would. I felt that they might have, the Commissioner might have felt that I might have needed a little bit longer as a Superintendent and operationally but no, on 17th April 1999, I was promoted to Chief Superintendent. My father died in 1994 and he had contracted Parkinson’s disease for quite a number of years before he died and his ability to communicate was getting harder and harder. So he used to write little notes. He would have a book in front of him, it could be any book, it could be an encyclopaedia but he used to write little notes and he wrote a note to an aunt of mine who was a nun, his sister and in the notes and I still have it, he wrote: “Catherine will make Chief, you’ll see it. I won’t.”

MR. FARRELLY: Oh my God.

RETIRED ASST. COMM. CLANCY: So it was quite a poignant day when I got the notification. Yeah, so I had succeeded in my father’s ambition for me but yes and then it was so good I was appointed then as the Chief Superintendent in Community Relations.

MR. FARRELLY: Familiar ground. Familiar ground to you.

RETIRED ASST. COMM. CLANCY: Yes, yeah, yeah which was absolutely. It was great to be back in Community Relations.