How the gardaí were made


There is something mystifying about the police force in the Republic of Ireland. A force born out of a bloody civil war yet strangely absent from popular memories of those long years of violence. A force celebrated for its rootedness in Irish cultural practices yet operating in the same centralised, colonial model inherited from the Royal Irish Constabulary, the police force of British state. An institution complicit in the abuse and degradation of children, of mothers, the poor and destitute yet somehow the guard continues to command respect and solidarity in Irish society while increasingly the priest or the politician are looked on with scorn and disgust. What is it about the Irish police force that enables it to continually overcome periods of controversy over abusive practices? Or perhaps this is not the right sort of question at all. Maybe it is that there is something distinct about the way Irish society works that facilitates an acceptance of violence by the state toward a particular type of person or group of people. The first step toward unravelling these complicated questions must begin with developing an understanding of the historical conditions in which the gardaí emerged.

Colonial beginnings
It is difficult to imagine a society without a police force and if you were to ask someone to try they would probably list off all the terrible things that would unfold without officers of the law ready to enforce order. Policing has become so naturalised that it is hard to believe that there was once a time when state policing didn't exist. Policing and the modern state are recent inventions conjured up to ensure the security of capital and to enforce wage labour as feudalism unravelled and wealth and power reorganised into state and market rule but that is another story for another day. Suffice it to say that there was once a time when law and order as dictated by the state and enforced by the police did not exist. This is not to say that prior to the emergence of state policing there was no enforced order. Rather there was a shift, beginning approximately around the 16th century, away from order as dictated by the feudal lord, the monarchy and the church to a centralised and militarized order operating at a national level and dictated by the state in the interests of a newly emergent capitalist class.

The first attempts to legally consolidate order as dictated by the modern British state and enforced by the police got off to a shaky start when the policing bill was turned down in the British parliament in 1785. Although policing under the absolutist state had been in operation for over a century at this stage, enacting brutal and bloody legislation which forced people off common land and from subsistence living into a condition of poverty then pushing them into wage labour, the late 18 century was a time when the political and capitalist classes, who had by now consolidated their power, were seeking to sanitise the recent history of the state. The establishment of a modern police force under the liberal democratic state would have to wait until popular perception of the police could be changed. But politicians and social theorists intent on manifesting their vision of social order were not dissuaded and the modern policing experiment was sent overseas to be tested out on Irish soil. Historians have argued that the political and social conditions of popular protest and agrarian unrest rampant throughout Ireland at the time served as a social laboratory in which modern state policing was first developed (Palmer 1988; Burn 1949).

The Dublin Metropolitan Police were the first police to hit the streets in Ireland in 1786, followed by the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) in 1814. They had their work cut out for them as anti-colonial rebellions were sweeping the country. Growing labour movements in urban regions and agrarian groups in rural locations were organising workers and enabling resistance to evictions and defending tenant farmers. By 1836 the RIC, an armed, centralized and militarised constabulary, had a nationwide presence and just 14 years later police numbers had increased to 13,000 in 1,600 barracks, three times more police than in England. A paramilitary  model  of  policing,  tested  out  and  developed  under  the  RIC, would  be exported  to  British  colonies  worldwide while on English soil efforts continued in an attempt to generate consent for policing. Popular identification with officers of the law was facilitated through a recruitment strategy which drew on a range of social backgrounds and through linking together police culture with the values of an emergent British cultural nationalism. This practice of achieving consent for state policing through association with an imagined common national cultural became a key practice in state building projects internationally and police officers, particular in the UK, have become the symbolic currency of the nation state. These measures, along with a decentralised organisational structure, were successful in changing the perception of policing held by the liberal political classes and the press, and the London Metropolitan Police Act was passed in 1829.

Back in Ireland, anti-colonial struggle was spreading. The Home Rule movement rose throughout the late 1880’s popularising the politics of self-determination while at the cultural level projects such as the GAA, the Gaelic League and the  Celtic  revival associated  with the nationalist movement developed into institutions of Irish cultural nationalism.  During this time the RIC and DMP  increasingly  became targets  for groups refusing to be governed by the British state particularly after the brutal repression of the 1916 Easter Rising. Resistance to the force became policy in Sinn Féin’s 1919 Declaration of Independence, which declared a boycott on the constabulary and launched  the guerrilla war of the IRA. At this point the Republican movement set up a parliament, court system and policing body, the Irish Republican Police (IRP) which operated from 1920-22  providing  security and enforcing the judgements of the Dáil courts. The IRP were treated as an illegal subversive group by the British State and the RIC set about wiping out the republican policing body, but their numbers had been greatly depleted by sustained attacks from the IRA. A large number of veterans from the First World War signed up following a recruitment  drive in Scotland and England and were shipped across the sea to combat the growing Republican movement. The RIC auxiliary police force became known as the Black and Tans, a notoriously brutal military force. A  ceasefire between the IRA and the British  State was agreed in 1921  followed by the Anglo Irish Treaty which established the Irish Free State as a dominion of the British Empire excluding six counties in the North of the country, decisions which split Sinn Fein in 1922, and the authorities of the new state turned their attention to governing and policing the new state.

Policing the Irish Counter-Revolution

The new police force would play a central role in the counter-revolution of the emerging political order as the armed forces of the Free State turned against former allies. Clashes increased between anti treaty republicans and nationalists who supported the provisional government, led by Cumann na nGaedheal (6), a newly formed party of pro- treaty Sinn Féin members headed by W.T. Cosgrave. Cosgrave declared martial law in 1922 stating that he was willing “to exterminate 10,000 republicans” if it was necessary to achieving order (Vaughan and Kilcommons 2008). The first step to develop a police force was taken by Michael Collins who initiated the “Oriel House men” or Criminal Investigation Department, a Special Branch of armed officers who set about gathering information on opponents of the Treaty, a majority of the IRA at the time (7).

Over the first years of the new state 11, 480 republicans were interned (8) without trial (Maguire 2004) and 150 were executed (Vaughan and Kilcommons). The Free State government decided to disband the RIC but retain the services of the DMP, a police force with a bloody history of crushing union and republican movements (9), while the Royal Ulster Constabulary would take over policing the six counties in Northern Ireland (10). The Police Organisation Committee, staffed mostly by DMP and ex RIC officers, was set up next to develop proposals for a new police force. Plans for the ‘Civic Guard’ took shape, a force almost completely identical to the RIC in structure and recruited in secret to ensure loyalty to the Treaty. This was a deliberate move by the new government to inhibit local control over the formation of the police force, retaining a colonial, centralised and military structure in which the police commissioner would be under direct control of the government who continued to be legally bound to the British State until 1949.

What has conventionally been viewed as the 1922-23 Irish Civil War was in fact a much longer process. Historian John Regan has argued that the period should be recognised as a counter revolution, a period in which, “disparate powers emanating from within a revolution [were] reeled in and controlled by a central authority […] when former revolutionary leaders resort to repression to counter those who persist in using violence against the state”. The counter revolution of the Free State continued into the next decade in the form of a policing strategy designed to crush opponents of the treaty through information gathering, internment and executions.

Rebranding the Civic Guards
The Civic Guard were officially launched in 1922 but half the population did not support the Treaty, the Free State or its related institutions so policing under the new state did not have public consent. External resistance to the force and internal conflict over the leadership of ex RIC officers compelled the initiation of program of changes designed by O’Higgins, Minister for Justice and O’Duffy, Chief of Staff of the IRA before becoming Garda Commissioner in 1922. These changes would reconstruct the image of the force, carving out a space for the police of the Free State on a cultural level. O’Duffy’s vision of this new force was informed by his strong ideas on discipline and order fused with an ethos of nationalism and idealism influenced by his admiration for Mussolini’s fascist corporatist state. A series of changes to the Civic Guard gradually embedded the police in community life shaping the image of the police as “Irish in thought and action” (11).

The first step taken was to disarm the guards. O’Duffy explained his rationale for this decision; “The Civic Guard will succeed not by force of arms, or numbers, but on their moral authority as servants of the people” (Walsh, 1998.) While this decision has created an image of the Irish police as a reluctant coercive institution, a number of points must be clarified about the unarmed status of the Irish police. To begin with, the decision to remove arms was taken following a mutiny within the force in which civil guards, rebelling over the promotion of ex-RIC officers, took control over a stockpile of weapons and forced Collins to remove the men from official duty (Allen 1999). Disarming guards who would challenge decisions at senior level and arming those whose obedience could be guaranteed would weaken the threat posed to the political elite by internal dissent within the police force. The armed guards, officially titled ‘The Special Branch’, have retained a strong presence and maintained quite a degree of unquestioned, discretionary power throughout the history of the Irish state while policing by unarmed gardaí has followed a policy of violence and brutality rather than law enforcement. The Irish police have come to be known – among those on the receiving end and experienced professionals - for not being shy about behaving violently on duty, “opting for rough and ready justice instead of prosecution” (Vaughan and Kilcommons).

The 1923 Garda Síochána Act officially renamed the force to the Irish translation currently in use today, which means ‘Guardians of the Peace’; as part of police training recruits were taught the Irish language. The 1924 Disciplinary Regulations demanded a strict rule of abstinence combined with a respectable salary. At a time of impoverishment this gradually changed the local perception and social standing of the police and applications to join increased. Over the following years An Garda Síochána would develop a strong commitment to sporting practices, in particular the GAA, which stood as one of the largest cultural institutions within the state; the gardaí would “play their way into the hearts of the people” (Brady). In 1952 98% of recruits came from Catholic backgrounds and could be seen marching to mass on Sunday mornings (Mulcahy 2008). The rural and agricultural background of the force was epitomised by O’Duffy as the ideal of the new nation state; he proclaimed, “the son of the peasant is the backbone of the force” (Allen). The success of this cultural programme can be seen in the status of An Garda Síochána as one of the principal ‘in-groups’ of Irish society (12).

Pacifying the ‘Free State’
These symbolic changes and adoption of cultural practices gradually won over public consent for the Gardaí. At the same time a continued program of counter revolutionary policing set about eliminating opponents to the emerging order. The Special Branch, an armed counter insurgency unit, had merged with the DMP in 1923, eventually joining up with the Garda Síochána in 1925.

The new police force emerged under a state governed by the conservative Cumann na nGaedheal party who placed great emphasis on law and order during a time of social unrest while working to naturalise its claim to power through suppressing those who opposed it. Following the withdrawal of the army in 1923, the gardaí had full responsibility for this task.
Battles waged between the gardaí and the IRA as De Valera, having left Sinn Féin to set up Fianna Fáil in 1926, toured the country mobilising support for armed struggle against the Free State. De Valera led Fianna Fáil into the Dail in 1927 and into government in 1932 dismissing O’ Duffy as Garda commissioner, who was replaced by Eamonn Broy, and rapidly moved to distance himself and his new party from armed struggle. Broy recruited several hundred ex IRA men, nicknamed the ‘Broy Harriers’, into the armed auxiliary Special Branch of the gardaí and they swept the country rounding up members of the IRA who refused to support De Valera in a partitioned state.

A combination of grinding poverty and the brutal practices of the Special Branch shifted support away from Fianna Fáil initially to the Blueshirts (13) and later toward a resurgence in IRA activity (Brady). A continued programme of internment without trial was made policy in the 1939 Offences Against The State Act as means to counter this opposition. Clashes increased between the gardaí and the IRA again in the early forties but subsided through a combination of intelligence gathering, military tribunals, executions, economic exile and the internment of over 500 republicans (Maguire). The Southern State responded to an IRA attempt to rebuild the republican movement in the North in 1957 by rounding up hundreds of republicans who were interned in the Curragh military prison in 1958.

The Irish counter-revolution was a battle over the legitimacy of tactics. State authorities claimed a monopoly over the use of violence, framing its opponents as illegal and terrorist. “The dominant nationalist parties defined their opponents as criminal, anti-democratic, and illegitimate not as accurate descriptions but in order to bolster their own claims to legality, democracy, and legitimacy” (Regan).

From policing the state to policing the nation
Since its formation the gardaí have served a dual purpose for the state. On the one hand they suppress dissent to the political order, while on the other they play a central role in the construction of an image of a unified nation and the culture of that nation. The consolidation of political, economic and cultural power took place under the Free State simultaneous to a knitting together of institutions of Irish cultural nationalism and the gardaí were as central to these processes as the Catholic Church, the GAA or Fianna Fáil / Fine Gael. The values of the new order were socially conservative, preserving unequal socio-economic structures and the power of the church, concentrating political and economic power in the hands of an emerging Irish elite at a time of authoritarian social control.

Although the political culture of the time had the image of being divided over the Northern question, in practice the main political parties of the state, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, could be defined more by consensus than conflict when it came to the conservative nature of their ideology; “majoritarianism, parliamentary democracy, constitutional procedure, church state relations, the rights to private property and the rights of the individual” (Regan). Political revolution had changed the names of those in rule but there had been no social revolution to change material divisions. Society continued to be divided unequally along class lines but this was disguised by an illusion of a unified nation under the Southern state. In reality divisions between those who materially benefited from the struggle for independence and those who did not were identifiable in the contrast between thriving middle classes and masses driven to emigrate or remain and face a life of poverty and destitution while thousands would remain institutionalised. 

In 1921 there were 11,000 people in workhouses or poor houses and 6,000 children in reformatory or industrial schools, which remained open until the publication of the Kennedy report in 1970 initiated a slow procedure of closures (Kilcommons et al 2005).  An estimated 30,000 women had passed through the Magdalene laundries which closed their last door in 1996 (Finnegan 2001). Thousands of these people, mostly children at the time, were mentally, physically and sexually abused by the church and institutions of the state. It is probable we will never know how many people died or were murdered in these circumstances, but one factor that has come to light recently is the complicity of the gardaí with these crimes. The 2005 Ferns Report on the findings of an inquiry into allegations of clerical sexual abuse revealed that complaints of sexual abuse at the hands of the clergy made to the gardaí as recently as 1988 did not appear to have been recorded in any garda file and were not investigated in an appropriate manner. The results of the Murphy report, issued in 2009, drawing on numerous public inquiries into clerical child sexual abuse, reported on the collusion between senior gardaí and the church in covering up the allegations of abuse while the gardaí had been issued the task of investigating the matter.

“A number of very senior members of the Gardaí, including the Commissioner in 1960, clearly regarded priests as being outside their remit.”  (Murphy Report 2009)

The decades that followed the pacification of the Free State, from the nineteen thirties to the late sixties are considered a time of ‘low crime’ in Irish society (Mulcahy 2007) but who has the power to define what is a crime? The gardaí and indeed the state clearly viewed the church as being above the law. Deference to authority displayed in Irish community life enabled the continuation of system of abuse and exploitation that destroyed thousands upon thousands of lives. 

Perpetual State of Emergency
While integration between the police and the public had gradually developed under the Southern state there had been no such image of consent generated for policing in the North, which was divided along sectarian lines between nationalists who contested the legitimacy of the British state and unionists loyal to the crown. The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association took to the streets of Tyrone and Derry in protest at the discrimination of nationalists by the Northern state in 1968, calling for the reform of employment, electoral and housing policy but were faced with hostile unionist groups and attacked by the RUC, who had policed the Northern six counties since partition. The British Army was assigned duty in Belfast and Derry the following year in response to fears that the Irish government was planning a military invasion following a statement by Taoiseach Jack Lynch:
“The Irish government can no longer stand by and see innocent people injured and perhaps killed”.
Civil rights marches continued until January 1972, which were now mobilising against the increased use of internment by the British State, when soldiers opened fire on unarmed civil rights protestors killing 14 people; an event known today as ‘Bloody Sunday’.

These events sparked a resurgence of political violence north and south of the border. The continued contestation of the Irish state by militant republican groups coupled with ambivalent sentiments within Fianna Fáil over ‘the Northern question’, particularly following the ‘arms crisis’ when Fianna Fáil ministers imported weapons to supply to republicans, caused a wave of panic in the government that conflict in the North would spill into the South. The Irish state responded to this threat by heavily investing in powers for the policing of republicanism. The 1939 Offences Against The State Act (OASA) was amended in 1972: section 30 enabled the detention of suspects for 48 hours before charging; section 31 of the Broadcasting Act facilitated state censorship of Sinn Féin and the IRA, preventing republicans from accessing the media; and section 38 provided for the establishment of the juryless Special Criminal Court through which scheduled offences would stand trial. Following heightened armed struggle in the South a state of emergency was declared in 1976, enabling the detention of suspects for up to 7 days, although the state had remained in ‘emergency’ following the 1939 OASA. Since formation the Irish state has functioned within a state of emergency for 51 out of its 90 years (1921-2011).

Gradually over time anti terrorist policing has become normalized as powers enabled through emergency legislation have increasingly been used in response to non paramilitary crime (Vaughan and Kilcommons). The gardaí were effectively given carte blanche to police republicanism by any means necessary and within this context the Special Branch redeveloped.

The Heavy Gang
From the early 70’s a group of Special Branch detectives, skilled in interrogation tactics and extracting confessions by verbal, physical or mental abuse, operated with discretionary powers until a ruling by the Supreme Court in 1979 put pressure on the gardaí to operate within legislation. It was now possible to account for the numbers of individuals taken into custody, and figures revealed a massive disparity between the numbers of individuals arrested under Section 30 of the OASA and those charged. It became clear that the rights and freedoms afforded to citizens of the Irish state were being suspended on a massive scale. Out of 2,308 people arrested under section 30 in 1982, only 256 were charged. In 1984 only 374 were charged out of 4,416 arrested under the same act (Dunne and Kerrigan 1984, Vaughan and Kilcommons).

In the absence of thorough research on state abuses of emergency legislation including the exact number of people wrongfully arrested and interrogated by ‘the heavy gang’ (14) , or falsely prosecuted by the Irish judiciary it is necessary to rely on information from individual cases that came to public knowledge through public campaigns and  media investigation to show the human cost of policing by any means necessary.

“We are the special boys. We're experienced at getting confessions. We've handled dozens of murders and know a murderer just by looking at him” (15)

Christy Lynch, a 26-year-old soldier, confessed to the murder of Vera Cooney following a 22 hour interrogation in 1976 and was sentenced to life imprisonment. The only evidence supplied to the trial was Lynch’s confession. On its third appeal in 1979 the case was thrown out by the Supreme Court, which ruled that the behaviour of the gardaí could not be legitimated by upholding the conviction. Lynch has received no compensation from the state for the 3 years he spent in jail and Vera Cooney’s murderer has never been found.

Forty members of the Irish Republican Socialist Party were arrested and interrogated by the gardaí following the Sallins Train Robbery in 1976 (Brennan and Kerrigan 1999). Some of the men signed confessions but stated in court that they had been violently coerced into doing this. They received further beatings following the court case. In denial of the charges gardaí claimed that the men had inflicted the injuries on themselves. Justice Barr adamantly defended the gardaí against claims of abuse declaring that it was unthinkable that they should be accused of conspiring or perjuring themselves and ruled that the men’s statements were made voluntarily (Inglis 2004). Nicky Kelly and five others stood trial at the Special Criminal Court for the theft of £200,000. The case collapsed, but the retrial found three of the men (Breathnach, McNally and Kelly) guilty on the basis of the confessions. Kelly had skipped bail at this point. Breathnach and McNally spent 17 months in jail before being acquitted on appeal. Nicky Kelly returned to Ireland in 1980 believing the charges against him were dropped but was sentenced to 12 years. Continuous public campaigning brought about Kelly’s release two years later.

A sad and troubling case, which continues to ripple through the public imagination, came to light in 1984 exposing the normalisation of the emergency powers of the state and routinisation of the abusive interrogation tactics of the Special Branch in Irish society. On the 14th of April the body of a new-born baby was found washed up on a beach in Cahirciveen, Co Kerry. The baby had been stabbed several times. The murder squad, the official title for the ‘heavy gang’, arrested Joanne Hayes, her mother, aunt, sister and two brothers and within hours they had signed confessions from the family identifying Joanne as the baby’s mother and murderer but medical evidence contradicted these statements as blood tests could prove that the child was not Joanne’s. A Tribunal of Inquiry was launched into the matter (16) but there was no official recognition that the gardaí had forced the Hayes family to confess to a murder that they did not commit. The Cahirciveen case remains unsolved.

Speaking out against the Gardaí
Towards the end of the 1970’s a combination of forces, including public campaigns and solidarity work with victims of police brutality, investigative journalism, international pressure from human rights organisations and dissent within the force, combined to cause a tipping point which partially dislodged the untouchable position of the police in the arrangement of power that had been consolidated over the previous four decades. This began in 1977 when a large number of confessions were retracted in court by individuals claiming they had been forced under abusive circumstances. Amnesty International followed these brave acts with a report that year stating that they were concerned over the physical and mental abuse gardaí were inflicting in order to gain confessions and over the complicity of the Irish state, specifically the judiciary, in supporting this behaviour. The same year the Irish Times ran a series of investigative articles on the operation of a ‘heavy gang’ of special branch detectives brutalising people in custody. It was later revealed that during this time a number of politicians were approached by two concerned gardaí who reported that confessions were indeed being forced through violence and that gardaí involved were willing to perjure themselves in court to support these confessions (17).

In 1978 the government appointed O’Briain commission recommended 22 measures (18) to be taken to safeguard against abuse of individuals in custody. These were ignored. Setting up an inquiry was enough to give the image of accountability shielding the gardaí from criticism. “Public support for the gardaí was so widespread and strong, compared with that for subversives, that the government was able to defuse the situation by the appointment of an inquiry into the treatment of persons in garda custody” (Walsh 1999).

Local and national solidarity with Nicky Kelly and Joanne Hayes through sustained protests, campaigning and media work kept these cases in the public eye during the early 80s. Following the Kerry Babies Tribunal, the murder squad was officially disbanded in 1984. The Garda Síochána Complaints Board (GSCB) was set up in 1986. 750 complaints had been lodged by 1990. However, public inquiries into garda behaviour had only ever created an illusion of accountability. The GSCB quickly proved that the state would make no serious commitment to holding gardaí accountable for abusive policing. 136 complaints made to the board in 1994 resulted in no prosecutions and only one prosecution was taken the following year out of 154 complaints (19).  

A stream of complaints to the GSCB throughout the 90s, originating in Donegal, had not lead to any prosecution or investigation by the start of the new decade, but sustained local campaigning with some support from political representatives compelled the government to act and a Public Tribunal of Inquiry was set up in 2002. 
The Morris Reports, published between 2007 and 2008, outlined the results of five major investigations. Two of these concerned a campaign of harassment against the McBrearty family by the gardaí, who attempted to frame Frank McBrearty Senior, his nephew Mark McConnell and son Frank McBrearty Junior for the murder of Richie Barron who was killed in a hit and run in 1996. 12 members of the McBrearty family were taken into custody, interrogated and abused; one individual spent two months in a psychiatric unit after being released from custody (Cunningham 2009). But the McBrearty case seemed only to be a scratch on the surface of police corruption in Donegal as investigations uncovered numerous incidents, outlined in the remaining three reports, in which arms and explosives had been planted on individuals by the guards as a means of enhancing their powers or furthering their careers. Between 1993 and 1994 Superintendent Kevin Lennon (who was fired) and Detective Garda Noel McMahon (resigned), in an attempt to move up the chain of command, fabricated a number of explosives finds. The investigation found Chief Supt Denis Fitzpatrick complicit in the behaviour of these gardaí in framing an innocent individual as an IRA informer. The Tribunal also found that Sergeant John White orchestrated the planting of an explosive device in 1996 at a protest site in Ardara which would enable him to arrest protestors under Section 30 of the OASA. The report revealed that two years later Sergeant White with the help of Detective Garda Thomas Kilcoyne and Sergeant Jack Conaty, Garda Martin Leonard and Garda Patrick Mulligan, had planted a firearm at a Traveller Halting site, enabling him again to act under Section 30. 

The findings of the investigation, headed by Justice Morris, exposed systemic and institutionalised corruption and abuse of power throughout the force, ranging from low ranking officers to senior level, and have resulted in a series of resignations and recommendations for reform. Justice Morris listed the systemic flaws institutionalised within Irish policing as a promotions system that was problematic and not transparent, no accountability structures and no apparent disciplinary mechanisms while broader failures enabling corrupt and brutal policing were rooted in the absence of democratic accountability. No police commissioner or politician has been called to question for the cases mentioned here. This tribunal stands as the first investigation into the behaviour of the gardaí that has taken a critical view of the force, but a Tribunal of Inquiry merely investigates cases and publishes findings and has no power to create real changes within the police force or the state.

“There is nothing between us and the dark night of terrorism but that Force. While people in this House and people in the media may have freedom to criticise, the Government of the day should not criticise the Garda Síochána." (20)

The Irish police emerged out of a colonial, military model assigned the task of administering state sanctioned terror and violence, specialising in counter insurgency operations, extra judicial imprisonment and executions. Yet public consent for this force was easily won through association with the values of an imagined national culture and the guard took position in community life, along with the parish priest and school teacher in the ‘blessed trinity of communal control’(Vaughan and Kilcommons). Until recently conflict in Northern Ireland has deflected criticism from the force and has legitimated a police system that relies on emergency legislation and unaccountable powers. The stories in this collection are shaped by such a history.

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6. Cumann na nGaedheal, a conservative party who kept a policy focus on free trade and law and order acting in the interests of the middle classes, remained in power until the electoral success of Fianna Fáil in 1932. They then merged with the fascist “Blueshirts” in 1933 to form Fine Gael.
7. The first “Special Branch”, officers specifically assigned the task of counter insurgency policing (intelligence work, surveillance, infiltration) formed under the London Metropolitan Police in 1883 to monitor the international underground republican movement, specifically the Irish Republic Brotherhood.
8. Internment; imprisonment without trial or formal charge, was a key practice in pacifying the state north and south of the border
9. The DMP had viciously attacked striking workers during the 1913 lockout, killing two and injuring hundreds in an effort to smash attempts to unionise and had operated side by side with the British Army during the 1916 Easter Rising.
10. The Northern section of the RIC was renamed the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in 1922 and recruited a large number of ex RIC officers from the South.
11. Garda Commissioner Michael Staines quoted in Mulcahy and Shapland 2008.
 Mac Gréils 1996 study, Prejudice and Tolerance in Ireland, found that a majority of survey respondents would prefer to have a guard as a neighbour above any other professional.
The Blueshirts or National Guard were a right wing political organisation inspired by fascist, anti communist trends in Europe. See
14. The name given to detectives specialising in gaining confessions, usually through violent means.
15. Detective Inspector John Courtney to Christy Lynch during interrogation (Sunday Tribune 05/08/07).
16. The tribunal, headed by Justice Lynch, discovered that Joanne had given birth to a child that had died shortly after, that the child’s body had been buried at the Hayes family home in Abbeydorney, Co. Kerry and that Joanne had told this to detectives during interrogation. Although medical evidence could show that the Abbeydorney baby had died of natural causes, Justice Lynch ruled that Joanne had murdered her baby. He also argued that although the Hayes family hadn’t actually taken the trip to Kerry to dispose of the body they had planned to and when questioned had become so overwhelmed with guilt over their grim intentions that they had confessed to the murder of the Cahirciveen baby. The final report of the tribunal was widely discredited and disbelieved.
17. See All in a life: Garret Fitzgerald, An Autobiography, 1991
18. The 1978 O’Briain report identified emergency powers enabling the detention of suspects in custody for 2-7 days as problematic. Among the recommendations the report advised that the discretional practice of holding individuals in police stations outside legislation should end, that arrestees should have custodial guardians and that interrogation rooms should be equipped with recording equipment.
19. It has taken consistent pressure from international human rights bodies (Committee for the Prevention of Torture and European Court of Human Rights) to get the Irish state to reluctantly admit that a complaints board that ultimately functions as gardaí investigating complaints against their colleagues was not impartial nor ever likely to achieve democratic accountability. The board was dissolved in 2007 and replaced by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.  
20. Fine Gael Minister for Justice Michael Noonan responding to criticisms of the gardaí on the 10th November 1987.