Speech at re-dedication of An Garda Síochána Monument of Remembrance
Garda Headquarters, 16 September, 2023
Minister, Minister of State, Commissioner, Garda Members and Staff, family and friends of those we are honouring today.
Is cúis áthais agus bróid dom mar Uachtarán na hÉireann a bheith libh ag an ócáid thábhachtach seo agus muid ag léiriú hómós do na comhaltaí agus baill foirne cróga sin den Gharda Síochána a thug a mbeatha, agus iad i mbun seirbhíse beo mar chomhaltaí. In imeacht na mblianta, tá an Garda Síochána i gcroílár na hoibre le slándáil agus sábháilteacht an phobail, agus an stáit féin, a chinntiú le bliain agus céad anuas agus tá ár meas agus ár mbuíochas tuillte acu as a ndílseacht dá ndualgais.
Teastaíonn crógacht agus misneach ar leith le bheith i do bhall d’aon sheirbhís póilíneachta, agus ní eisceacht ar bith é an Garda Síochána agus, ar an drochuair, is rómhinic a mbhíonn baol agus contúirt ag baint leis an ngairm uasal sin.
Is ceart agus is mithid dúinn smaoineamh le mórmheas inniu ní amháin ar na comhaltaí cróga sin den Gharda Síochána sin a fuair bas agus iad i mbun oibre, ach ar a dteaghlaigh, a gcáirde, a gcomharsana agus a gcomhghleacaithe a fágadh faoi uallach bróin in a ndiaidh.
I am honoured to join with you today as we remember, and pay tribute to all those who have lost their lives while serving in An Garda Síochána over the last one hundred and one years.
I am particularly pleased that so many family members and friends of those whose lives and service are being recalled, are present as we share with you in remembering your loved ones – as we together publicly recognise not only the sacrifices which they have made, but also those sacrifices made by you, their families, through your support and understanding of their time given to the public welfare beyond their families.
As a society, we owe a particular debt of gratitude to all those who serve in An Garda Síochána, and in each of our emergency services.
All those who commit their working lives to An Garda Síochána contribute to the public good, protecting our citizens from harm and assisting them in what are often, for citizens and communities, their darkest, most painful moments.
As President of Ireland, on behalf of all the people of Ireland, I thank them for their service.
Mo bhuíochas leo.
In remembering those taken in the most sudden of circumstances, in some cases most brutally, we are reminded of the bravery which is represented by all of those who have committed their lives to public safety, knowing that on any given day they may find themselves in the gravest of circumstances.
The work of An Garda Síochána over the last 100 years cannot be captured in any brief summary, nor in any narrow account or definition of policy. It includes all of the work of all those who have served in our communities over the last century, providing as they did, in so many practical and intangible ways, that comfort which so many have experienced in their moments of greatest loss, and from day to day assisting and protecting us not only when the worst calamities arise, but when they are being prepared, threatened or feared.
Those members whose lives and services are being recalled and honoured by the monument we stand before today includes each of those members of An Garda Síochána murdered in the line of duty. It calls to memory too those who lost their lives while rescuing others from our waters or assisting the public suffering, distressed and displaced in times of flooding, or again during the COVID-19 pandemic, while responding to emergency calls, and at so many times and in the differing conditions which we have collectively and individually faced.
May I commend An Garda Síochána for extending the monument’s reach beyond its original conception, including as it now does the names of all those Members and Staff of An Garda Síochána who have lost their lives in whatever circumstances while serving in the organisation, each one leaving behind as they did grieving families, close friendships, and community members.
This is a deeply appropriate measure. While there is an outpouring of national loss each time a Member of An Garda Síochána is killed in the line of duty, the personal and collective grief experienced by all those who lose an individual at a young age, in any circumstance, has a devastating effect on their colleagues, their community and, most of all, their family.
As President of Ireland, I have in recent years many times travelled to parts of Ireland where some of our citizens, their families and communities are experiencing deep trauma following a tragic loss of their loved ones.
In such circumstances, the Gardaí are so often at the forefront of those who are called on to help and support us as we deal with personal and communal devastation. It is therefore all the more upsetting to any community to lose such important members of their community in whom they have come to place their trust. For each community that has lost a serving Garda, to any illness or in any circumstances, there is a deep feeling of loss. It is a loss that goes beyond that of their immediate family and reaches deep into the communities in which they have given service.
It is so appropriate too that the monument recalls not just Garda Members, but also Garda Staff – it is a welcome recognition of the commitment to the public shown by all those who have lost their lives in service beyond the ranks of sworn personnel.
For the families of those working in An Garda Síochána, a death while in service is the ultimate loss in a career which, as I have already noted, has been defined by great personal and family sacrifice.
As each Garda family and their friends that are gathered here today knows, there is both tremendous pride in sharing your loved one with their vocation, but also a considerable weight. For many, it has involved a migration, leaving your home community and your immediate family and friends.
It is a life of knowing that each day your loved one may face incomprehensible challenges, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. The knowledge that their job will demand that they cannot always be there when you may wish them to be for your circumstances, but that they must be there daily for families throughout your adopted communities.
It is that willingness to give beyond the self, to earn trust in the broadest sense of serving the community, that I believe is the strength of An Garda Síochána. It is a tradition not simply or narrowly of coercive control, but of community support and service, advice and interaction.
As we are all aware, An Garda Síochána emerges from a complex history – inevitably complex in the sense of the historical events of the times. There were often difficult relationships which the public experienced and would come to experience with the different policing organisations of those decades, of its birth at the onset of a time of Civil War, and in the complex early days of the organisation itself.
From that complex history, and indeed informed by it, emerged a police service to which we have been able to entrust our safety. The transition to a largely unarmed civil authority, when it came, is an important part of the history of the foundation of the State itself, and An Garda Síochána has proven itself throughout its history as an organisation to which so many citizens have been happy to place their trust, turn to and acknowledge assistance.
It is important too that we remember that, throughout our history, achieving trust, being accepted as a defender of the public good has been, and remains, a continuing challenge. There have been those who have not always felt that the police service represented them, or was on their side. There are, I recognise, particular communities and groups who felt at times they have not been as protected as they should. I very much welcome then the work which An Garda Síochána has done, and is doing today, to demonstrate for example to our Travelling community, to our young people, to our migrant populations and to all those marginalised groups who may have held or who hold such doubts that they too are being served by An Garda Síochána, are represented by them, protected by them and indeed must I believe have a place in serving within An Gárda Síochána.
The inheritors of the tradition to which I have referred are today’s Garda Members and Staff, women and men who play such a vital role as community Gardaí, serving our young and diverse society, protecting victims of domestic violence, dealing with the new challenges which we face - from white collar crime to cyber security, new and revived forms of discrimination and abuse, and all those other means by which our safety can be put at risk.
I welcome the work which is being done between An Garda Síochána and other police services towards ensuring that we each learn what is best practice in working with all sections of our population towards our collective safety and in ever-changing circumstances. Indeed, I was very pleased that one of the earliest receptions which I was able to hold after being elected as President of Ireland was to welcome those participating in the 6th European Gay Police Association conference to Áras an Uachtaráin in 2012.
It is in building that inclusive, open, diverse society to which we all aspire, in providing safety, comfort and the assurance of a life without harassment or harm, that we can most appropriately honour the more than 1,800 women and men named on this monument which we are re-dedicating today.
On behalf of the people of Ireland, muintir na hÉireann, may I thank all of you, their family members, for sharing them with us as they dedicated their lives to our service. We remain in their debt, and in yours.
Síocháin síoraí dá n-anamacha dílis.
Mo bhuíochas libh is beir beannacht.