Good Cops Deserve Better

Donegal on Sunday

In the week that saw the launch of ‘Chaos and Conspiracy’, the book telling the full story behind the Morris tribunal inquiries into complaints by the McBrearty family and others, author Gerard Cunningham reflects on the policeman’s lot.

Several times in the past week, as I gave interviews to publicise Chaos and Conspiracy, I was asked how Gardai would react to the book, either in Donegal or throughout the country.

I suspect the reporters were hoping to generate a bit of controversy, but the truth is, the reaction has been positive from several former and serving Guards I’ve spoken to.

Joining the Guards is more than just another job. Those to apply and are accepted are motivated by a desire to help others, to make a better society for everyone. Many Gardai were appalled by the news that emerged from the Morris tribunal, and applauded the changes that followed from the reports.

Near the end of Chaos and Conspiracy, I wrote about Garda Fergus McGroary. In the same week that the first Morris report was published. On Sunday 18 July, Garda McGroary was stationed in Bunbeg. He was on patrol when he received a report that a car had driven over Bunbeg Pier.

Garda McGroary ran to the scene, dived in and managed to bring the woman driver to safety. He was later awarded a a Silver Scott Medal for his bravery in the line of on duty.

Last month, the entire county was shocked by the death of Robbie McCallion. The 29 year old Mayo native was a Guard, as was his father. His brother is also a member of the force.

Robbie McCallion was severely injured when he responded to a reported car theft in Letterkenny at 4.30am on 26 March. He suffered severe head injuries, was rushed to Letterkenny general hospital, and from there to Beaumont hospital in Dublin, where he died on 7 April from his injuries.

I spent over four years of my life writing about the Morris tribunal. There were good days when I could write about officers to told the truth, who gave honest evidence about what happened. And there were too many bad days, when I watched what Justice Morris called the ‘blue wall of silence’.

I would rather write about officers like Fergus McGroary, whose selfless dedication is an inspiration. I wish I could say I will never have to write another story about an officer like Robbie McCallion, killed in the line of duty, but I know that I will. Every member of the force knows the risks of the job. It is a risk they accept, part of the price of the vocation they have chosen.

Two weeks ago, 283 new Gardai graduated at a ceremony in Templemore. They, and everyone else in Ireland, deserve a police force that works to meet the highest standards, not the lowest. The Morris tribunal recommendations, many of which have already been put in place, will go a long way to make sure that the Garda uniform is one that every member is proud to wear.